Last Updated on 31/01/2022 by Nidhi Khandelwal
Natural silk threads from domesticated silkworms were used by a group of academics from South Korea’s Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) to create an environmentally friendly digital security system that they claim is “practically unbreachable.”
The researchers wrote, “The first natural physical unclonable function (PUF) […] takes advantage of light diffraction through natural microholes in native silk to provide a secure and unique digital key for future security solutions.”
PUFs are devices that use intrinsic randomness and microscopic variances in electronics created during manufacturing to provide a unique identifier (e.g., cryptographic keys) for a set of inputs and conditions.
PUFs, in other words, are one-way non-algorithmic functions formed from uncopyable elements to create unbreakable identifiers for strong authentication. PUFs have long been used in smartcards to produce “silicon fingerprints” that allow cardholders to be uniquely identified using a challenge-response authentication system.
GIST’s latest proposed technology uses silkworm-produced native silk fibers to construct PUF-based tags, which are subsequently used to create a PUF module. This method is based on the idea of diffraction, which occurs when a light beam contacts an impediment, in this case a silk strand.
According to researcher and study author Young Min Song, the collected diffracted light is unique, “giving rise to a unique pattern of light,” which is then transformed into a digital format and sent into the system as input.
If such a system is used for user authentication through a smart card, the researchers estimate that cracking an authentication key generated by the module via a brute-force assault would take 5 x 1041 years, rendering it cryptographically impenetrable.