TAMU Prof Finds Cheap Security Via 'Thermal Noise'

A Texas A&M engineer claims to have discovered a cheap but effective way to encrypt messages using "noise" generated when electrons flow along a wire.

Laszlo Kish, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at TAMU, discovered the process by which data messages can be
encrypted by "thermal noise" produced when charged particles encounter resistance in a medium.

In the scheme, sender and receiver have the same pair of resistors attached to a physical cable, with one producing high resistance and the other a low resistance. As a voltage moves along the wire, thermal noise is generated, and its amount varies with the resistance on the wire.

While the thermal noise masks the transmission, eavesdroppers can be detected when their tap alters the noise pattern.

Kish and his team have produced a prototype of the device needed to encrypt the transmission. They said it has 99.98 percent message accuracy at a distance of 2,000 kilometers and could be marketed for about $100.

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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