Chemical Passwords could prove to be the Solution we need

Chemical Passwords could prove to be the Solution we need

Computer Science and Chemistry joined hands to protect sensitive information and it gave birth to Chemical Passwords.

We live in a digitalized world where protection of sensitive information is different and difficult than the traditional techniques. The tool used most commonly is Encryption where a key is used to encode data which can later be restored using the same or a different decrypting password. The working mechanism revolves around the idea that anyone with the decrypting key can access the data.

This is an obvious route used by hackers to infiltrate the confidential information and observations prove that a lot of hacking ventures were done through this channel. Researchers have been trying to come-up with something that is more secure and it seems as if they had made considerable progress in this regard. They merged Chemistry with Computer Science to develop a lock, known as Chemical Password, which will replace encryption.

The most amazing feature, associated with these molecular keypad locks, is that the infiltrator will be unaware of its very existence. Their incredibly small size makes them very hard to detect. They are considered examples of steganography as the lock itself is hidden alongside the password. Another complication associated with cracking these locks is linked with the signals they emit.

Generally, electronic signals are used and there are sufficient methods to utilize them for your good but the presence of optical and chemical signals adds an extra layer of security around these locks. A lot of people might question the need for this system when highly effective encryption programs are available. The answers to all their queries lie in the thing called Password.

Scientists are well aware of the encryption programs but at the same time, they know the consequences of a weak password. The entire structure of encryption relies on a solid password and if the security requirements are not met properly, huge catastrophes can follow. This is where chemical locks creep in. The information of the password is concealed in a small organic molecule and the transportation of details about the code, to read the information, is done secretly.

However, the encrypted information flows in our environment. Tiny pieces of chemical compounds, like a droplet of paper, are used to transfer the key invisibly. Michael Meier, a Professor of Organic Chemistry at KIT, told the world about the usage of this technology and its importance. He said,

Of course, this method is only suited for applications requiring high-security levels and, hence, justifying a high expenditure, examples being the transmission of intelligence or communication of embassies.”

The sequence of building blocks are used for storing the secret information and a combination of a number and a letter is attached to all these chemical components. A conventional technique, Multi-component reaction, was used for sake of synthesizing molecules. It enables the researchers to develop a pre-defined molecule in one step. 130 basic compounds were selected on the basis of their commercial availability and 500,000 keys containing some basic information can be generated from them.

Combination of different keys can also be used for increasing storage and security. The scientists extracted chemical keys from many carrier materials including sugar, green tea, instant coffee, paper, and perfume. Andreas Boukis, the first author of the study, explained the feasibility and importance of these passwords in the following words:

We can work with smallest amounts and also find them in materials, in which other chemical compounds, such as DNA molecules, cannot be used.”

The presence of Perfluoroalkyls as side chains have instrumental importance in selecting these chemical compounds as they facilitate recovery. The fact that they react only with perfluorinated compounds and avoid any chemical interaction with polar or non-polar mediums makes them an ideal commodity as their selective separation from any mixture is possible. Mass spectrometry takes on from there to perform a highly sensitive analysis in order to determine the mass of the entire molecule or some specific fragments of it.

Once this is done, all you need is the knowledge of 130 initial compounds and you can find the decryption key. Dennis Hofheinz, a Professor of Theoretical Informatics, summed up the benefits of chemical passwords as he said,

“The idea to send information via secret channels is not new. But our process is characterized by the fact that we provide a highly robust secret channel that needs minimum amounts of the key molecule only.”

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