Chiraag Juvekar, graduate student in electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said that the chip prevents so-called side-channel attacks which analyse patterns of memory access or fluctuations in power usage when a device is performing a cryptographic operation to extract its cryptographic key.
One way to thwart side-channel attacks is to regularly change secret keys so that the RFID chip would run a random-number generator that would spit out a new secret key after each transaction.
A central server would run the same generator, and every time an RFID scanner queried the tag, it would relay the results to the server, to see if the current key was valid.
The system would be vulnerable to a "power glitch" attack in which the RFID chip's power is cut right before it changes its secret key.
To prevent that they have come up with an on-chip power supply whose connection to the chip circuitry would be virtually impossible to cut and the other is a set of "nonvolatile" memory cells that can store whatever data the chip is working on when it begins to lose power.
The chip that MIT came up with needs to be made with ferroelectric crystals which are used in nonvolatile memory.
Texas Instruments that has built several prototypes of the new RFID chip, the researchers presented their research at the "International Solid-State Circuits Conference" in San Francisco.