A new uncrackable security system created by researchers at the University of St Andrews, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the Center for Unconventional Processes of Sciences (CUP Sciences) is set to revolutionise communications privacy.
The international team of scientists have created optical chips that enable information to be sent from user to user using a one-time unhackable communication that achieves ‘perfect secrecy’, allowing confidential data to be protected more securely than ever before on public classical communication channels.
The proposed system uses silicon chips that contain complex structures that are irreversibly changed to send information in a one-time key that can never be recreated nor intercepted by an attacker.
The technology overcomes the major threat of quantum computers, which are soon predicted to be able to crack existing communication methods, uses existing communication networks and takes up less space on networks.
The results, published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, open a new pathway towards implementing ‘perfect secrecy’ cryptography at the global scale with contained costs.
First author, Professor Andrea di Falco of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews, said: “This new technique is absolutely unbreakable, as we rigorously demonstrated in our article.
“It can be used to protect the confidentiality of communications exchanged by users separated by any distance, at an ultrafast speed close to the light limit and in inexpensive and electronic compatible optical chips.”
Current standard cryptographic techniques allow information to be sent quickly but can be broken by future computers and quantum algorithms. The research team says their new method for encrypting data is unbreakable and uses existing communication networks, taking up less space on the networks than traditional encrypted communications.
Leader of the study, Dr Andrea Fratalocchi, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at KAUST, said: “With the advent of more powerful and quantum computers, all current encryptions will be broken in very short time, exposing the privacy of our present and, more importantly, past communications.
“For instance, an attacker can store an encrypted message that is sent today and wait for the right technology to become available to decipher the communication.
“Implementing massive and affordable resources of global security is a worldwide problem that this research has the potential to solve for everyone, and everywhere. If this scheme could be implemented globally, crypto-hackers will have to look for another job.”
The new technique achieves ‘perfect secrecy’ meaning a hacker will never be able to access the information contained in the communication.
Keys generated by the chip, which unlock each message, are never stored and are not communicated with the message, nor can they ever be recreated, even by the users themselves, adding extra security.
Dr Aluizio M Cruz, co-founder and CEO of the Center for Unconventional Processes of Sciences (CUP Sciences) in California and study author, said: “This system is the practical solution the cyber security sector has been waiting for since the perfect secrecy theoretical proof in 1917 by Gilbert Vernam.
“It’ll be a key candidate to solving global cyber security threats, from private to national security, all the way to smart energy grids.”
The researchers are currently working on developing commercial applications of this patented technology, have a fully functional demo and are building user-friendly software for this system.
The paper ‘Perfect secrecy cryptography via mixing of chaotic waves in irreversible time-varying silicon chips‘ is published in Nature Communications and available online.
University of St Andrews
Founded in the 15th century, St Andrews is Scotland’s first university and the third oldest in the English-speaking world. Teaching began in the community of St Andrews on the east coast of Scotland in 1410 and the University was formally constituted by the issue of Papal Bull in 1413.
The University of St Andrews is one of Europe’s most research-intensive seats of learning; over a quarter of its turnover comes from research grants and contracts. It is one of the top-rated universities in Europe for research, teaching quality and student satisfaction and is consistently ranked among the UK’s top five in leading independent league tables.
The University is the UK University of the Year in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2020. The 2020 Guardian University Guide ranked the University as top in Scotland and the second in the UK behind Cambridge.
Established in 2009, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is a graduate research university devoted to finding solutions for some of the world’s most pressing scientific and technological challenges in the areas of food, water, energy and the environment. With 19 research areas related to these themes and state-of-the art labs, KAUST has created a collaborative and interdisciplinary problem-solving environment, which has resulted in more than 11,000 published papers to date.
With over 100 different nationalities living, working and studying on campus, KAUST has brought together the best minds and ideas from around the world with the goal of advancing science and technology through distinctive and collaborative research.