Feeds

Crypto boffins: let's get physical

Plastic Tokenism

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

Researchers at MIT have developed a physical token, based on tiny glass spheres encased in epoxy resin, as a more secure alternative to generating cryptographic keys electronically.

With computers getting ever more powerful, especially when quantum-based technology come on the scene, some predict the mathematical algorithms which underpin current encryption techniques could be broken.

Such computers may be capable of factorising the product of very large prime numbers, but would struggle to unravel a one-way function based on a physical token. So the theory goes.

The MIT boffins created a physical one-way function by connecting cryptography with mesoscopics, the study of how waves travel in disordered materials.

In the September 20 issue of Science they show a simple token (costing pennies) made of tiny glass spheres in a clear epoxy containing around one trillion bits of data in the locations of the spheres.

Laser light shined on the token produces a speckle pattern, which is then recorded and used to generate a cryptographic key. Terminals (smart card readers, for example) can send this key over a conventional communications channel to identify and authenticate a token.

The researchers believe this new approach will improve information security on the Internet and elsewhere.

They believe it is technologically unfeasible to duplicate the epoxy resin. Also an enormous number of different keys can be produced as a function of how the laser reads it.

The data is stored in a material, rather than in a circuit, which means that the technology can also be used as part of a device that needs authentication, such as a security sensor, and is more tamper proof.

The low cost and tamper-proof characteristics may lead to applications in everyday objects such as envelopes and bank notes, the researchers predict.

"These capabilities are all of great interest to the cryptographic community," says Neil Gershenfeld, associate professor and director of the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT, who led the work. "The introduction of physical one-way functions provides a new tool for them that promises to help make information security more accessible and more reliable." ®

External Links

New approach to secure digital information developed at MIT

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.