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2023 1st steps towards IPO"Going global with K-Security Tech, VIA PUF^PQC!" ICTK Holdings CEO Justin

15 years of hard work to develop indigenous K-security technology finally sees the light of day

Acquired more than 126 domestic and foreign patents and certified technologies, with 27 more in progress

Signed MOU with US semiconductor design and global IP giant 'Rambus' to accelerate overseas expansion

[Boan News] There is a total solution company specializing in Internet of Things (IoT) security that has been steadily developing for 15 years since 2007 to promote Korea's indigenous security new technologies globally. This is ICTK Holdings (CEO Justin J. Lee). With a passion for developing purely domestic security technology, the company established a security SoC R&D center with Hanyang University in 2014 and began full-scale research, successfully developing PUF (Physically Unclonable Functions) security chips and VIA PUF commercial chips (Draco) in 2015.

PUF security technology was officially listed in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and its importance was recognized, and in Korea, 'G3K Security Chip' was objectively proven to be secure by obtaining the National Intelligence Service's cryptographic module verification (KCMVP) certification last year. Boan News met with Justin, CEO of ICTK Holdings (hereinafter referred to as ICTK), who has remained silent to achieve such tangible results.

▲CEO Justin J. Lee explaining the core business and product lines of ICTK Holdings [Boan News]

"We are serious about next-generation security technologies like PUF and PQC. It is our greatest pleasure to see our indigenous technologies being exported overseas."

Justin's eyes sparkle with passion and curiosity as he thinks about the future of Korean security technology. He is a graduate of Harvard University in the United States, and during his life in the United States, he studied a lot about empires that have risen and fallen in the past. He said that the most important thing he learned in the process was "leading the way in new technologies," and that continuing to do so is the key to countries leading the world.

"The most important thing is to stay on top of new technologies. It's easy to understand if you look at the keyword change in weapons from the Paleolithic era to the Iron Age, and then creating the next generation of weapons, that's 'leading the way with new technology'. So, having the original technology to protect the root of information protection in the information age, the point of trust, based on good fabless technology, is also very important."

As a result of his efforts, ICTK succeeded in mass-producing the world's first PUF security chip, which is used as the Root of Trust in the IoT ecosystem, based on its proprietary VIA PUF patented technology. As a result, it was recognized for its excellent technology not only by the three domestic telecommunications companies but also overseas, and beyond the leading European security chip companies with a market capitalization of billions of trillions of won, it signed a contract with a well-known global IT company based in Seattle, USA, and began cooperating with RAMBUS, the world's largest secure IP company, on VIA PUF.

Convergence security technology started with a passion for developing new technologies indigenous to Korea

In the era of hyperconnectivity, converged security technology has become indispensable not only for physical security of numerous communication equipment and sensors, but also for data and control management connected to each device.

The history of ICTK began with the relationship with Hanyang University, which continues to conduct joint research to this day. In 2011, the company received PUF technology, including VIA PUF, and further strengthened industry-academia collaboration by recruiting key professional executives. However, Justin said, it was not an easy time to achieve results.

"It takes a lot of trial and error for a new technology to be validated and stabilized. We were able to become a company that can safely create security chips by organizing professional executives with various practical experiences and industry know-how to deal with large domestic companies and overseas global companies to develop reliable security chips."

ICTK's journey in developing security chips began in 2015, about eight years after its establishment, when it released its first mass-produced chip (Draco), and VIA PUF was born as a security chip 'G3' after almost 10 years.

ICTK Holdings' powerful security chips 'PUF' and 'VIA PUF' lead global security technology through domestic and international certifications

In line with Mr. Lee's wishes, ICTK's security chips have been verified through various domestic and international certifications. In particular, PUF technology has been recognized as a technology that can block hacking threats at source and has been listed by the International Standards Organization (ISO). In the announcement of the standard, ISO stated that 'existing security modules are fatal to reverse engineering hacking' and officially presented PUF as an alternative. PUF technology meets all six of ISO's requirements, including safety, always-on, randomness, uniqueness, mathematical unclonability, defense against intrusive and non-intrusive attacks, and physical unclonability, with the most ideal results.

In addition, PUF was recognized for its patented technology that does not store security parameters (keys) inside or outside the chip, which is of great significance in solving the problem of stealing key values due to hacking of existing software. PUF does not utilize memory to store seed keys, and prevents the creation and leakage of unclonable identities through hardware-based RoT, encrypted secure storage, public key method authentication, and hardware cryptographic accelerators. It is safe because it does not store random numbers generated according to physical phenomena in the semiconductor production process as keys and does not store them in memory. In other words, it can respond to both invasion and non-invasion attacks on semiconductors.

However, the general PUF technology has a problem that the value changes depending on temperature, humidity, time, etc. ICTK solved this problem with the 'homeostasis' of 'VIA PUF' technology. 'VIA' is for stacking and connecting semiconductor wafers and utilizes 'VIA holes' to form PUFs by randomly configuring 'open' and 'short' by reducing the diameter size. This technology solves the problem by passively deviceing the correction value (ECC), which has been a challenge in the past.

ICTK was selected as a leading company in PUF technology at the expert forum of the Global Semiconductor Association (GSA). At the same time, the GSA's IoT Subcommittee PUF technical white paper reference was completely replaced with ICTK (Via PUF) instead of the existing European company. As a result, the company is now firmly established as a company that has secured 126 patents in addition to KCMVP certification from the Korean National Intelligence Agency.

In addition, the company provides PUF-based security solutions and services related to U-SIM and e-SIM that are installed in various IoT terminals such as wallpads with each product line based on △IP, SoC, module, and device. The security chips include △G3, G3K (KCMVP certification), and G5, and the products and solutions of the security module group based on them include 'qTrustNet VPN' based on quantum resistant encryption (PQC), which boasts excellent speed and security by applying the latest cryptographic technology.

▲CEO of ICTK Holdings Justin J. Lee

Zero Trust and Quantum Security: The Key to the Future of Security

There is an important trend in the security industry. These are the emergence of 'Zero Trust' and 'Quantum computers'. ICTK has realized zero trust architecture with VIA PUF and quantum computers with PQC (Post-Quantum Cryptography).

"In the United States, the importance of zero-trust architecture and quantum security is growing due to the strengthening of cybersecurity. We are already producing two such chips. We are well on our way to preparing for the future of security before anyone else," he said, expressing pride in being at the forefront of new technology.

First, ICTK's PUF technology, which has been certified as a national standard, is in line with Zero Trust, a cybersecurity model based on the premise of trusting nothing. Since IoT is like a unique bio-information of an individual that communicates, thinks (AI), and moves like a person, life cycle management based on a point of trust (RoT) is essential. Currently, ICTK is working with service companies such as smart factories, finance, cloud, etc. as well as SIEMENS, ARM, etc. in addition to traditional chip manufacturers to standardize RoT and lead the IoT security subcommittee's technical white paper for the implementation of various service platforms.

Second, the emergence of quantum computers. The era of attack and defense using quantum computers has arrived. As a result, RSA hacking, or hacking of existing cryptographic algorithms, has emerged as a threat, and ICTK has introduced PQC as a countermeasure.

In an attack, the threat is to steal the encryption key by a quantum algorithm. There are two main types of quantum algorithms: public-key cryptanalysis based on Shor's algorithmic theory and symmetric-key cryptanalysis based on Grover's algorithmic theory.

ICTK responds to Quantum Cryptography by forming Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG) to defend against quantum computer attacks. ICTK PUF-PQC security chip has established a dual security system. In addition, the PQC algorithm can be applied to various civil IoT systems such as cloud services, access control gates, and unmanned settlement systems.

As such, ICTK is a trend leader in the era of E2E security solutions based on PQC-PUF trust point technology, and is leading the global security chip market for the first time in Korea with the spread of PUF technology that implements 'semiconductor fingerprint (Inborn ID)' within the device itself, IPized security chips and solutions of PQC algorithm, and PQC-PUF RoT security chip products.

Expanding business supply chain after signing MOU with US global IP company RAMBUS

"The brand value of the American company RAMBUS is significant in the market. With RAMBUS' recognition of ICTK's technological excellence, the impact on the global market is expected to be significant."

Mr. Lee expressed his expectation that the MOU with RAMBUS will enable the company to expand its overseas expansion. In fact, as part of ICTK's overseas business network expansion, Rambus introduced a printer specialty company under a large Chinese group. Accordingly, the company said that it is in talks with the company to apply ICTK's PUF security chip and its IP in various security businesses.

Lee, who aims to popularize Korea's indigenous K-security technology globally, expressed confidence that the results of his long preparations with key executives will lead to actual sales, and that growth will accelerate from now on.

"Our sales target for this year is more than 7 billion won, 80% of which we have already achieved based on the current mechanical contract, and I think we will achieve more than double sales growth every year."

Currently, ICTK Holdings has 126 patent registrations, with 27 more in the pipeline. The company is confident that this agreement with Rambus will expand its customer base globally.

Meanwhile, ICTK Holdings is currently in the process of evaluating its technology for a special listing.

[Reporter Soomi Lee (]

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We do these things.
PUF Technology

What is PUF?

Unique Inborn ID 
(PUF, Physically Unclonable Functions)

•Silicon Inborn ID using the randomness of passive device generation in the semiconductor manufacturing process

• As a Physical ID created with physical characteristics, it is fundamentally impossible to falsify or duplicate the value

• Since each semiconductor chip generates a different unique ID, it is called a semiconductor fingerprint.

PUF Advantages

AS Via PUF provides unique Silicon Inborn ID characteristics,  It provides the Root of Trust (RoT), the source of all trust

•Via PUF guarantees stability that is impervious to 
various types of hacking attacks.

•Via PUF is a method of forming via holes between 
metal layers during semiconductor processing.

•As a passive device method, it is an innovative method
that solves all the problems of existing technologies.

•PUF that satisfies all randomness, homeostasis and 
security •Unlike other technologies, no error correction
circuit (ECC) is required.

What you can do with PUF

VIA PUF can be applied to various IoT devices and solutions  that require strong security.

•ICTK's security chip generates a key pair of a private key and a public key in the security chip using an algorithm called ECC based on the key generated by PUF.

•ICTK's PUF security chip provides encrypted RAM (Random Access Memory) and encrypted eFlash (flash memory) inside.

•ICTK's security chip can be operated in PQC (Post Quantum Cryptography), a quantum security algorithm.

ICTK's security chip is the most powerful existing method to provide the Root of Trust function based on PUF.