22.08.2011 - Press Release

By approving funds of around € 1.3m, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has sounded the starting bell for a project to develop the next generation of high-security smart cards. Led by chip manufacturer NXP Semiconductors Germany, Bundesdruckerei and Fraunhofer Research Institution for Applied and Integrated Security (AISEC) are to collaborate over the next two years in the UMABASA research project in order to systematically protect smart cards through a unique structural design - even against attacks that are not yet foreseeable today.

UMABASA stands for Uncloneable Material Based Security Architecture. High-security smart cards are to be protected even better against manipulation by irreversibly merging the microchip integrated into the card together with the information stored on the chip and the card body using a special material/cryptographic link. This link between the chip, information and card is to be achieved through so-called physically uncloneable functions to generate cryptographic keys. Research is to focus on designing these functions and the security architecture based on them. Efforts will also focus on selecting suitable materials and production processes. The aim of the project is to minimise the general potential for attack through parallel analyses of future attack scenarios and weak points and by integrating the results into the design.

Aiming for an integrated chip/card security architecture

State-of-the-art security documents like the new German ID card today already come with integrated high-security microchips. As these documents and their functions become ever-more complex, it is becoming increasingly important to protect them against misuse and forgery. Enormous technological effort is already required now if these documents are to be protected over their entire lifespan. Up to now, two separate approaches have been adopted in order to guarantee the security of the microchip and the document into which it is embedded. An integrated security concept that supplements the physical connection of all the individual high-security parts of a document with a logic connection of functions and integrates this into a specifically designed, global security architecture would pave the way for a new generation of high-security smart cards.

This innovative approach, which is the aim of the project, will be enabled chiefly by networking the microchip with uncloneable elements of the card body. This allows the security chip to recognise whether it is operating in its original card body or in a manipulated card clone. If the chip detects any manipulation, it can bring the use of the card to a complete halt. A security architecture of this kind, which can interactively combine logic, physical, chemical and optical properties as security features, offers an unprecedented level of security.

Bundesdruckerei, as the producer of documents, such as the German ID card or passport, has gone a long way towards integrating new materials and electronic systems into security printing. With innovations in security technology, NXP Semiconductors has become established as the world's leading supplier of security chips for eGovernment and eBanking applications. 77 out of 91 countries trust in electronic ID documents based on NXP technology. Fraunhofer AISEC in Munich will contribute its experience in the design and evaluation of embedded security systems and security protocols. As another associated project partner, the German Federal Office for Information Security will also take on an advisory role in the project.

The UMABASA project is being backed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the federal government's high-tech strategy and the "Information and Communication Technology 2020" (ICT 2020) programme with funds amounting to around € 1.3 million over a two-year term. One of the aims of the ICT 2020 programme is to strengthen and expand Germany's technological lead in the field of security technology. German companies and German security technology already rank among the best in the world today.