Virtually Unbreakable Encryption Scheme Inspired by Biology

By James Anderson •  Updated: 04/05/14 •  3 min read

A breakthrough method for encrypting confidential information has been patented by scientists at Lancaster University.

Securing data is becoming more and more of an issue in mobile communication, bank transactions, the Internet, and even car keys.

Passing encrypted information securely so only the intended receiver can decrypt and understand it is vital. In the race to stay one step ahead of hackers, there is a continuous demand for improved encryption methods.

This new method was inspired by discoveries in human biology, modelling how the heart and lungs coordinate their rhythms by passing information between each other. A mathematical model based on the intricate interaction between these organs has now been applied to the field of modern communications.

Applying Physics to Biology

The concept is based on the sender encrypting data at the transmitter as time variations of the coupling functions between a pair of dynamical systems, e.g., electronic oscillators or lasers, similar to the heart and lungs.

“This promises an encryption scheme that is so nearly unbreakable that it will be equally unwelcome to internet criminals and official eavesdroppers,”

said Professor Peter McClintock.

At the receiver’s end, the information is decrypted with a second pair of dynamic systems, identical to those in the transmitter and interacting via the same coupling functions, using Bayesian inference.

“As so often happens with important breakthroughs, this discovery was made right on the boundary between two different subjects – because we were applying physics to biology,”

Dr Aneta Stefanovska of Lancaster’s physics department added.

Infinite Encryption Keys

The advantage of this method is that it offers an infinite number of choices for the secret encryption key shared between the sender and receiver. This makes it virtually impossible for hackers and eavesdroppers to crack the code.

It is extraordinarily resistant to interference from random fluctuations or noise, which affects all communications systems.

It also is able to send several different information streams at once. This would help in many situations, for example, allowing all the digital smart devices in a home to operate on one encryption key instead of dozens of different ones.

“Here we offer a novel encryption scheme derived from biology, radically different from any earlier procedure. Inspired by the time-varying nature of the cardio-respiratory coupling functions recently discovered in humans, we propose a new encryption scheme that is highly resistant to conventional methods of attack,”

said Dr Tomislav Stankovski.

Reference: Tomislav Stankovski, Peter V. E. McClintock, and Aneta Stefanovska. Coupling Functions Enable Secure Communications.  Phys. Rev. X 4, 011026