Scientists apply physics to biology to create uncrackable encryption scheme

Scientists from the Department of Physics at Lancaster University in the UK have come up with an uncrackable encryption scheme inspired by the way the heart and lungs interact, which gives it an “infinite number of choices for the secret encryption key shared between the sender and receiver. This makes it virtually impossible for hackers and eavesdroppers to crack the code.” Professor Peter McClintock stated, “This promises an encryption scheme that is so nearly unbreakable that it will be equally unwelcome to internet criminals and official eavesdroppers.”

New encryption scheme dubbed a nearly impossible to crack

Professor McClintock, Professor Aneta Stefanovska and Dr. Tomislav Stankovski published their theoretical paper, “Coupling Functions Enable Secure Communications,” in Physical Review X and also filed a patent application for "Encoding Data Using Dynamic System Coupling." According to the paper's abstract:

Inspired by the time-varying nature of the cardiorespiratory interaction, here we introduce a new class of secure communications that is highly resistant to conventional attacks. Unlike all earlier encryption procedures, this cipher makes use of the coupling functions between interacting dynamical systems. It results in an unbounded number of encryption key possibilities, allows the transmission or reception of more than one signal simultaneously, and is robust against external noise.

Coupling functions used to enable unbreakable encryption for secure communications

The way your heart and lungs interact is an example of “coupling functions;” both organs carry out separate jobs to keep you alive, yet they must also communicate back and forth with each other -- cardiorespiratory interactions -- to coordinate their rhythms. The paper on Physical Review X included this handy-dandy visual aid. 

“Here we offer a novel encryption scheme derived from biology, radically different from any earlier procedure,” stated Dr. Stankovski. “Inspired by the time-varying nature of the cardio-respiratory coupling functions recently discovered in humans, we propose a new encryption scheme that is highly resistant to conventional methods of attack.”

Schematic of the unbreakable communications coupling functions scheme from Coupling Functions Enable Secure Communications research paper

Professor Stefanovska added, “As so often happens with important breakthroughs, this discovery was made right on the boundary between two different subjects – because we were applying physics to biology.”

We certainly need a breakthrough in encryption as highlighted by the recent study of how easily an attacker with a backdoor, such as the NSA, can defeat encryption systems that use the Dual_EC random number generator. The RSA, if you recall, reportedly received $10 million from the NSA to make it the default random number generator. According to the summary of “On the Practical Exploitability of Dual EC in TLS Implementations:”

The results indicate that a sufficiently motivated attacker with knowledge of the trapdoor is able to decrypt traffic in a targeted manner in all of the cases studied. For BSAFE-C, it seems likely that dragnet surveillance of all encrypted communication is possible. For other libraries, dragnet surveillance depends on the attackers computational abilities, the amount of communication, and, in some cases, additional knowledge about the server using the library. 

“RSA’s two implementations of Dual_EC, both of which used to have it as the default random number generator, proved to be the easiest to break,” added Technology Review. “A version written in the C programming language could be undone in under 16 seconds using a single computer processor, and under three seconds using a computing cluster with 16 processors.”

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