Paper 2012/228

Physical Unclonable Functions in Cryptographic Protocols: Security Proofs and Impossibility Results

Marten van Dijk and Ulrich Rührmair


We investigate the power of physical unclonable functions (PUFs) as a new primitive in cryptographic protocols. Our contributions split into three parts. Firstly, we focus on the realizability of PUF-protocols in a special type of stand-alone setting (the “stand-alone, good PUF setting”) under minimal assumptions. We provide new PUF definitions that require only weak average security properties of the PUF, and prove that these definitions suffice to realize secure PUF-based oblivious transfer (OT), bit commitment (BC) and key exchange (KE) in said setting. Our protocols for OT, BC and KE are partly new, and have certain practicality and security advantages compared to existing schemes. In the second part of the paper, we formally prove that there are very sharp limits on the usability of PUFs for OT and KE {\em beyond} the above stand-alone, good PUF scenario. We introduce two new and realistic attack models, the so-called posterior access model (PAM) and the bad PUF model, and prove several impossibility results in these models. First, OT and KE protocols whose security is solely based on PUFs are generally impossible in the PAM. More precisely, one-time access of an adversary to the PUF after the end of a single protocol (sub-)session makes all previous (sub-)sessions provably insecure. Second, OT whose security is solely based on PUFs is impossible in the bad PUF model, even if only a stand alone execution of the protocol is considered (i.e., even if no adversarial PUF access after the protocol is allowed). Our impossibility proofs do not only hold for the weak PUF definition of the first part of the paper, but even apply if ideal randomness and unpredictability is assumed in the PUF, i.e., if the PUF is modeled as a random permutation oracle. In the third part, we investigate the feasibility of PUF-based bit commitment beyond the stand-alone, good PUF setting. For a number of reasons, this case is more complicated than OT and KE. We first prove that BC is impossible in the bad PUF model if players have got access to the PUF between the commit and the reveal phase. Again, this result holds even if the PUF is “ideal” and modeled as a random permutation oracle. Secondly, we sketch (without proof) two new BC-protocols, which can deal with bad PUFs or with adversarial access between the commit and reveal phase, but not with both. We hope that our results can contribute to a clarification of the usability of PUFs in cryptographic protocols. They show that new hardware properties such as offline certifiability and the erasure of PUF responses would be required in order to make PUFs a broadly applicable cryptographic tool. These features have not yet been realized in practical PUF-implementations and generally seem hard to achieve at low costs. Our findings also show that the question how PUFs can be modeled comprehensively in a UC-setting must be considered at least partly open.

Available format(s)
Publication info
Published elsewhere. Not published elsewhere
cryptographic protocolsphysical unclonable functions (PUFs)oblivious transferbit commitmentkey exchange
Contact author(s)
marten vandijk @ rsa com
2012-04-30: received
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Marten van Dijk and Ulrich Rührmair},
      title = {Physical Unclonable Functions in Cryptographic Protocols: Security Proofs and Impossibility Results},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2012/228},
      year = {2012},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
Note: In order to protect the privacy of readers, does not use cookies or embedded third party content.