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Thursday, 20 December 2018 09:12

Scientists claim better security with biological encryption keys

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Scientists claim better security with biological encryption keys Pixabay

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University claim to have achieved better security by using human T cells to create encryption keys, and say these keys are extremely difficult to reverse engineer.

The team photographed a random two-dimensional array of T cells in solution. digitised the image by creating pixels on it and marked the pixels as "ones" and the empty spaces as "zeros", the website Phys.org reported.

The researchers — assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics Saptarshi Das, graduate student in engineering science and mechanics Akhil Dodda, graduate student in electrical engineering Akshay Wali and postdoctoral fellow in engineering science and mechanic Yang Wu — said this approach to creating encryption keys could not be cloned or reverse engineered.

Said Das: "Currently, encryption is done with mathematical algorithms that are called one-way functions. These are easy to create in one direction, but very difficult to do in the opposite direction.

"However, now that computers are becoming more powerful and quantum computing is on the horizon, using encryption that relies on its effectiveness because it is monumentally time-consuming to decrypt won't fly anymore."

The team used living cells because they can be kept around for a long time and, as they move around, can be photographed repeatedly to create new encryption keys.

They are using 2000 T cells per key at the moment and said in a recent paper that even if someone knew the mechanism for key generation — including cell type, cell density, key generation rate and key sampling instance — it was not possible to breach the system using that information.

Said Wali: "We need something secure, and biological species-encrypted security systems will keep our data safe and secure everywhere and any time."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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