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With card fraud increasing all the time, making bank cards fraud-proof is something of a holy grail for security experts, but a Dutch university has reportedly made great steps towards making the dream a reality by utilizing quantum physics, reports PC World.
Researchers at the University of Twente have published a paper entitled “Quantum-Secure Authentication of a Physical Unclonable Key” in which they discuss their research. It works using photons’ ability to encode data in a way that attackers cannot crack. It “exploits a property of photons that allows them to effectively be in multiple places at once, a phenomenon described in quantum physics,” explains PC World.
In the paper, the researchers explain that “Quantum-physical principles forbid an attacker to fully characterize the incident light pulse. Therefore, he cannot emulate the key by digitally constructing the expected optical response, even if all information about the key is publicly known.”
In practice, this involved researchers coating a credit card with a thin layer of paint containing millions of nanoparticles. “When light hits the nanoparticles, it bounces around until it escapes, creating a unique pattern that depends on the precise position of the particles in the paint. The card is “enrolled” in the system by recording the way that it reflects light,” explains Tech World.
Authentication of the card is then completed by a bank machine applying a pulse of light unique to each transaction to the card. When the correct pattern of light is returned, the card is authenticated.
According to the researchers, any attempt by a hacker to intercept the bank’s authentication ‘question’ would “destroy the quantum properties of the light and capture only a fraction of the information required to authenticate the transaction.”
“It would be like dropping 10 bowling balls onto the ground and creating 200 separate impacts,” explains Pepijn Pinkse, lead author of the paper. “It’s impossible to know precisely what information was sent (what pattern was created on the floor) just by collecting the 10 bowling balls. If you tried to observe them falling, it would disrupt the entire system.”
If the fraud proof credit card technology proves effective it could, according to Pinkse, be applied not just to bank cards, but government buildings, ID cards and even cars. PC World describes the technology required – lasers and projectors – as “relatively cheap and readily available”, meaning that a readout device should cost approximately $1,000.
Author Alan Martin, ESET