Research reveals unforgeable identities for graphics cards

Researchers announce today that graphics processors commonly used for gaming may hold the secret to the future of user authentication online.

This announcement comes from the European project "Physically unclonable functions found in standard PC components" (PUFFIN). In this project Intrinsic-ID B.V. (Eindhoven) is joining forces with Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Technische Universität Darmstadt, and Eindhoven University of Technology to show the existence of unique Physically Unclonable Function (PUF) properties in common computer hardware.

Graphics cards and security
The researchers have found that software can detect minute and uncontrollable manufacturing differences in seemingly identical graphics processors, reliably distinguishing the processors from each other. These differences can be used as a PUF to securely link a particular graphics card to a specific user account, preventing theft of the user’s identity.

Any passionate gamer knows the investment it takes to create a good character and the dangers of identity theft to which he is exposed by playing. Securely identifying the gamer’s hardware can stop identity theft. In addition, authentication via PUF properties in already existing hardware means that the operator of the gaming platform can push the extra security feature via a software update without the need for action on the user side.

Ongoing research
Having found PUF properties in graphics processors, the PUFFIN researchers are now searching for similar manufacturing differences in other commodity hardware such as mobile phones, while exploring further applications of easy access to unforgeable electronic identities. The results of the PUFFIN project will lead to new user benefits: for example, it may be possible to use these physically unclonable functions to encrypt disks, protecting those disks against theft without requiring users to remember long passwords.

The project runs till February 2015 and has a total budget of 1.3 million EUR. For more information see or contact the coordinator Tanja Lange (TU/e) at tanja (at)

Last modified: 2012.09.27