Biochemistry to protect passwords

Zurich – Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich are working on one-way functions based on DNA. This could be used to password-protect valuable goods such as works of art or supply chains against counterfeiting. A patent application has already been filed for the technology.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) are also using biochemistry to secure passwords against quantum computers. They have developed a method for developing cryptographic one-way functions in which the data is not processed using arithmetic operations but is stored on DNA building blocks. One-way functions for passwords calculate an output value from an input value, which can be used to check the correctness of a password without having to transmit the password itself.

The researchers' biochemical one-way functions select from a pool of hundreds of millions of different DNA molecules, ETH explains in a press release. "Our system is based on real chance," Robert Grass, Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences at ETH, is quoted as saying. "Input and output values are physically linked, and you can only go from the input value to the output value, not the other way around." Because the one-way functions are not based on digital algorithms, they would also be protected from the future computing power of a quantum computer.

ETH has already applied for a patent for the new technology. The production of a supply of random DNA molecules is already simple and cheap, but reading out the output value requires the use of DNA sequencing, which is currently still expensive. The researchers therefore initially see potential applications primarily in securing valuable goods such as works of art or tracking important supply chains. ce/hs

View full article