Laser Security Halts Hackers
TEL AVIV, Israel, March 25, 2010 – Computer hackers are getting smarter, which not only puts our national security at risk, but also compromises our personal and financial information. Now, a new invention is promising to beat today’s hackers – and hackers of the future – using existing fiber optic and computer technology.
Transmitting binary lock-and-key information in the form of light pulses, Dr. Jacob Scheuer of Tel Aviv University's School of Electrical Engineering said his device ensures that a shared key code can be unlocked by the sender and receiver – and absolutely nobody else.
He will present his new findings to peers at this year's laser and electro-optics conference May 16 to 2 at the Conference for Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) in San Jose, Calif.
"When the RSA system for digital information security was introduced in the 1970s, the researchers who invented it predicted that their 200-bit key would take a billion years to crack," Scheuer said. "It was cracked five years ago, but it's still the most secure system for consumers to use today when shopping online or using a bank card. As computers become increasingly powerful, though, the idea of using the RSA system becomes more fragile."
Plugging a leak in a loophole
Scheuer said the solution lies in a new kind of system to keep prying eyes off secure information.
"Rather than developing the lock or the key, we've developed a system which acts as a type of key bearer," he said.
But how can a secure key be delivered over a nonsecure network – a necessary step to get a message from one user to another? If a hacker sees how a key is being sent through the system, that hacker could be in a position to take the key. Scheuer has found a way to transmit a binary code (the key bearer) in the form of 1's and 0's, but using light and lasers instead of numbers.
"The trick is for those at either end of the fiber optic link to send different laser signals they can distinguish between, but which look identical to an eavesdropper," Scheuer said.
New laser is key
Scheuer developed his system using a special laser he invented, which can reachmore than 3000 miles without any serious parts of the signal being lost. This approach makes it simpler and more reliable than quantum cryptography, a new technology that relies on the quantum properties of photons, he said. With the right investment to test the theory, he noted that it is plausible and highly likely that the system he has built is not limited to any range on earth, even an around-the-world link, for international communications.
"We've already published the theoretical idea and now have developed a preliminary demonstration in my lab. Once both parties have the key they need, they could send information without any chance of detection. We were able to demonstrate that, if it's done right, the system could be absolutely secure. Even with a quantum computer of the future, a hacker couldn't decipher the key," Scheuer said.
For more information, visit: www.tau.ac.il
- 1. The branch of physics that deals with the use of electrical energy to create or manipulate light waves, generally by changing the refractive index of a light-propagating material;
2. Collectively, the devices used to affect the intersection of electrical energy and light.
Compare with optoelectronics.
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