(Sifted.eu) Sifted here profiles Crypto Quantique in their “Big Idea” series. Crypto Quantique is coming up with a way to read the unique quantum ‘fingerprints’ of computer chips. This could change the way we approach cybersecurity.
Every one of the several billion computer chips produced each year in the world is actually unique. Each chip may be pressed out in big batches in foundry production lines, but each individual chip still has microscopic variations in the way the atoms have arranged themselves in the oxide layer of each transistor.
Crypto Quantique uses a quantum effect known as quantum tunnelling to read the atomic fingerprint of a chip. Quantum tunnelling is when an electron passes through a barrier that it theoretically shouldn’t have the energy to pass through.
A computer chip organizes electric currents in tightly defined places in order to create circuits — and they don’t like this random leakage of electrons, which creates noise and interference. But it is hard to completely eliminate this phenomenon and as long as it remains relatively low-level, chipmakers just put up with it.
Crypto Quantique has turned the annoyance into an asset because it uses this pattern of leakage to identify individual chips. They have developed ways to measure these extremely weak electric ‘leakage’ currents — we’re talking about currents of a femtoampere (a millionth of a billionth of an ampere) — and turn that into an identifier.
Much of the three years that it took to create this technology, says Shahram Mossayebi, cofounder and CEO of Crypto Quantique, went into just being able to measure with this kind of precision.
Crypto Quantique validated the technology in 2019 on a chip produced by Global Foundries and now has an IP design that it can licence to other chip companies so that it can be embedded in a silicon chip.
The chip will be on the market in two years — but Mossayebi is not at liberty to say who the big chipmaker is.