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RSA Laboratories

Minimalist Cryptography for RFID Tags

A. Juels

Citation: A. Juels. Minimalist Cryptography for RFID Tags. In C. Blundo, ed., Security of Communication Networks (SCN), pp.149—164. 2004

Abstract: Cryptography offers an abundance of tools for protecting privacy and enforcing strong authentication. Basic RFID tags, however, are not presently believed to have enough computational power to perform even the most rudimentary cryptographic algorithms. RSA Laboratories has elaborated a framework for "minimalist cryptography" in RFID tags -- that is, achievement of the goals of cryptography under the special constraints posed by RFID.

One of the key ideas in this work is the application of pseudonyms to help enforce privacy in RFID tags. In a nutshell, a tag may carry multiple, random-looking names. Each time it is queried, the tag releases a different name. In principal, then only a valid verifier can tell when two different names belong to the same tag. Of course, an adversary could query a tag multiple times to harvest all names so as to defeat the scheme. The approach described here involves some special enhancements to help prevent this. First, tags release their names only at a certain (suitably slow) prescribed rate. Second, pseudonyms can be refreshed by authorized readers.

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