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Researchers Have Used Chaos to Create a Cipher With Proven Security

Chaos 

Mention chaos theory to the average technophile and the first thing that comes to mind is Geoff Goldblum's monolog from "Jurassic Park." There are, however, more practical applications for chaos than science fiction, as researchers from Kyoto University have recently demonstrated with a new type of cipher that relies on chaos to provide security.

The Vector Stream Cipher, or VSC, is like an advanced lock for digital information. Ciphers have been used in the cyber security community for decades, but the VSC is different because it uses true randomness to create the number sequences that comprise a given security "key." Recent testing confirms that it's extremely secure.

What Is a Cipher?

To understand the significance of VSC, you've got to understand cyber security and specifically, encryption. To encrypt something is to translate it into code language, which explains why encryption has become a popular security measure recently. If you have sensitive data that others might find valuable, you can encrypt it. Even if the data is stolen, it won't be compromised.

Encryption is nothing new to computer security. Over the years, increasingly sophisticated encryption standards have been developed to prevent someone from "cracking" the code. Today 128-bit encryption is commonly used in data security.

To make the encrypted data visible on secure computers, you need a key that tells the computer how to read the encrypted code. That key must be hard to guess for the system to be secure. The mechanism that creates the key is called a cipher. Until now, ciphers relied on patterns of equations and numerical relationships - but VSC is different.

When Chaos Equals Security

Computer encryption would be incredibly difficult to decode for even the best human cryptographers. But in the world of cybersecurity, you've got to do better than that. Even though it might take your desktop computer the better part of eight thousand years to decrypt a code as old as the famous Enigma code from World War II, the quantum computers of tomorrow could potentially perform the task much quicker.

If you can reverse-engineer the cipher that's used to encrypt a document, you can decrypt it much faster. Many conventional ciphers use algorithms that can be "guessed" by powerful computers, this is commonly called a brute-force technique. VSC, however, is nearly invulnerable to these types of attacks.

The reason for this is because VSC can generate keys that are actually random - that means no amount of reverse-engineering will ever discover the algorithm used the generate the key. While today's RSA, Blowfish and AES standards provide enough security for most applications, it's difficult to demonstrate their level of security.

Tomorrow's Encryption - Today

The team at Kyoto has successfully tested VSC and shows it to be resilient against brute-force and other types of attacks. The standard was being tested as far back as 2004, however, until recently there was no way to demonstrate what made it stand out compared to other, more conventional ciphers. One of the tests used to show VSC's security is designed specifically to test randomness.

Adding to the promising new cipher's accolades, VSC is much easier on resources than more traditional ciphers. This low footprint means it consumes very little memory and could potentially see use in industries like the telecom market, where broadcast television and network communications rely on encryption to stay secure.

VSC Continues to Evolve

Even though the Kyoto team already has an accomplishment on their hands with VSC, they aren't resting. They have already identified three specific areas where they want to improve on the current cipher, to make it even more secure.

Will you see this technology in place on your next laptop? Probably not. But a decade from now, you might be using the fifth or sixth-generation equivalent of VSC, or a similarly engineered product.

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About the Author

Kayla Matthews is a tech-loving blogger who writes and edits ProductivityBytes.com. Follow her on Twitter to read all of her latest posts! 
Published Wednesday, July 26, 2017 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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