MIT Engineers Develop Tiny, Tamper-proof ID Tag for Authentication

By Consultants Review Team Monday, 19 February 2024

MIT engineers have unveiled a novel identification (ID) tag capable of distinguishing between authentic and counterfeit items with unparalleled precision, as disclosed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Sunday. This breakthrough follows modifications made to an earlier cryptographic ID tag, which was vulnerable to security breaches, to create an anti-tampering version that remains compact, cost-effective, and secure, the MIT announced. The previous iteration of the tag was susceptible to security loopholes associated with traditional radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems.

The new anti-tampering ID tag, developed by MIT researchers, measures a mere 4 square millimeters and is powered by light. Additionally, the team demonstrated a machine-learning algorithm capable of detecting tampering by identifying unique glue pattern fingerprints with over 99 percent accuracy. The earlier ID tag employed terahertz waves, which are smaller and faster than radio waves, facilitating the creation of a chip that does not require a larger off-chip antenna.

By utilizing terahertz waves with a 1-millimeter wavelength, the researchers eliminated the need for a larger antenna. Upon passing through the tag and interacting with the object's surface, terahertz waves are reflected back to a receiver for authentication. The distribution of metal particles on the object's surface determines how these waves are backscattered. Multiple slots on the chip allow waves to strike different points on the surface, capturing diverse information on the random particle distribution.

According to Ruonan Han, an associate professor at MIT, and leader of the Terahertz Integrated Electronics Group, these unique responses are impossible to replicate unless the glue interface is destroyed by a counterfeit attempt. However, the authentication system is currently limited by the high transmission losses of terahertz waves, requiring the sensor to be within approximately 4 centimeters of the tag for accurate readings. The MIT team aims to address these constraints in future research endeavors.

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