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New Nanoscale Security Method May Be Best Hacking Prevention.

Researchers at the New York University (NYU) Tandon School of Engineering have introduced a new breed of Cryptographic primitives for cybersecurity that can apparently provide maximum security against hacking at minimal cost.

These primitives (you can think of them as a physical equivalent of algorithms) are created using a nanomaterial that's cost-efficient and provides the highest possible structural randomness.

Randomness is a key parameter when it comes to creating security primitives since they give the primitives the ability to encrypt and secure the computer hardware and data physically and not using programming.

A (http://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.7b07568) paper related to this was published on Nov. 16 in the journal, ACS Nano.

In the paper, Davood Shahrjerdi, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineer along with his NYU Tandon team give the first proof of what's called as total spatial randomness in atomically thin molybdenum disulphide (MoS2).

According to the paper, the nanomaterial was grown by the researchers in layers.

Each layer was about a million times thinner compared with a strand of human hair.

The scientists were able to vary the thickness of every layer, thereby altering the size and the energy band structure which affects the material's properties - Energy band structure refers to the range of energy that electrons in a particular material could possess.

"At monolayer thickness, this material has the optical properties of a semiconductor that emits light, but at multilayer, the properties change, and the material no longer emits light. This property is unique to this material," said Davood Shahrjerdi.

After tuning the material growth process, the resultant thin material was speckled with a substance that made the thin film alternately emit light and not. When this film is exposed to light, the patterns becomes a unique authentication key. It occurred to the researchers that this could be used to create cryptographic primitives.

This new material is said to be the first physically unclonable security primitive that's created with this particular nanomaterial.

Physically unclonable security primitives are usually found embedded in integrated circuits. They help protect/authenticate digital information or hardware.

Spurred by a stimulus, these primitives generate a unique response that would be either a cryptographic key or a way of authentication.

In this case, the stimulus is light.

The research team behind the new invention is of the belief that in the future nanomaterial-based security primitives could be produced economically at large scales. These could then be applied on a chip or other hardware components.

As Shahrjerdi said, "No metal contacts are required, and production could take place independently of the chip fabrication process. It's maximum security with minimal investment."

The news of the invention could be considered timely, given how hacking and data breaches are becoming all too common.

Recently, hacking charges were made against three Chinese nationals for accessing business secrets from multiple companies in the United States.

Also, Uber has admitted that hackers stole data from 57 million customers and drivers when miscreants breached into their systems in 2016. The gravity of the situation was accentuated when a group of senators said in a letter sent to the company on Monday that the hack "merits further scrutiny."

Hopefully, the new invention would curb such instances of hacking.
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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Date:Nov 29, 2017
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