Cryptography without using secret keys | 6/18/2015 | Staff
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Most security applications, for instance, access to buildings or digital signatures, use cryptographic keys that must at all costs be kept secret. That also is the weak link: Who will guarantee that the key doesn't get stolen or hacked? Using a physical unclonable key (PUK), which can be a stroke of white paint on a surface, and the quantum properties of light, researchers of the University of Twente and Eindhoven University of Technology have presented a new type of data security that does away with secret keys. They present their method in the journal Quantum Science and Technology.

Information security, in online banking, for example, often works with a combination of a public key and a private key. The public key is known to everyone, but for creating a digital signature, a private key is necessary. This is a cryptographic method that only works if private keys are kept secret. But are we certain that these keys can't be intercepted, by negligence or by a computer hack?

Researchers - Paper - Key - Key - PUK

The alternative the researchers present in their paper is a physical key that cannot be cloned, a physical unclonable key (PUK). This can be a stroke of white paint that strongly scatters light because it consists of many nanoparticles. The result is a unique speckle pattern. Making a key with exactly the same scattering properties is impossible: No paint surface will be the same. The PUK's properties can be publicly available, but only the owner of the key is capable of scattering the light in the right way.

Using a complex spatial pattern, the sender transmits light pulses to the receiver's key. These pulses consist of a...
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