back to article Silk could tie up all-but-unbreakable encryption, say South Korean boffins

Silk could become a means of authentication and unbreakable encryption, according to South Korean boffins. Silk can take on this role, as explained in Nature Communications, because security boffins are increasingly interested in "physical unclonable functions" (PUFs) – physical objects whose properties are impossible to …

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  2. Little Mouse

    Just like Tom Cruise's balls?

    I remember being impressed by the shiny wooden balls in Minority Report. The idea of using wood to create a non-tech and impossible to reproduce token made a lot of sense.

    Sounds like similar thinking with the silk, albeit easier to carry around.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Just like Tom Cruise's balls?

      This is a level above that, silk underwear!

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Just like Tom Cruise's balls?

        Or Robert Kilroy-Silk?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just like Tom Cruise's balls?

      In the same sort of thinking, there's this polymer seal with random bubbles inside:

      I think I read about it years ago, something like that was used in North Korea nuclear sites by inspectors to ensure they could not reopen them without leaving evidence. I found the idea really interesting.

    3. Unicornpiss

      Re: Just like Tom Cruise's balls?

      I suppose the pattern of wrinkles would be unique..

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    But how can they do this in the West?

    Silk comes from China, right? Along the Silk Road? So there's bound to be all sorts of issues about that!

    Looking for my silk pocket handkerchief --->

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: But how can they do this in the West?

      Spider silk ?

      1. Steve K

        Re: But how can they do this in the West?

        You'll find out about that on the Web for sure!

      2. Irony Deficient

        Re: But how can they do this in the West?

        Spider silk ?

        Spider silk via transgenic goats.

  4. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    "When a beam of light hits the disordered silk fibres of an optimal density, it causes light diffraction

    Whats to stop these disordered fibres moving around and changing their key value?

    1. Piro Silver badge

      Exactly. If it's used for one-time seeding of a key, creation of a key, fair enough, but it can't be used as a method of authentication, as it changes all the time, independently of other factors controllable in the real world (e.g. temperature, humidity) and in an unpredictable manner.

      The beam of light alone reading the silk "card" would cause a different pattern each time, unless it was extremely precise, and there was a good deal of "fudge factor" built-in to the reading process - and in that fudge lies insecurity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Presumably you could encapsulate your silk onto a stable substrate, maybe resin.

        1. zuckzuckgo

          Yes but it is more useful as a random number generator or the seed of one.

          If you are always going to get the same output every time you "read" it then you can just store the digital representation of that output as we do now for secure keys.

          1. Blank Reg

            You could embed a piece of silk in a security card to make it unclonable. you would just need a small clear window in the card through which to read the pattern

  5. Alan J. Wylie

    Glitter nail varnish

    Glitter nail varnish was suggested to be used for this back in 2013. It has the additional advantage that it can be used to seal a screw-head

    Wired article

    Thwarting Evil Maid Attacks

    Mentioned in the video at about 51:50

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone here can tell me..... long it might take to factorise the product of two 300 long decimal prime numbers?

    I mention this here, because it takes my pathetic laptop about two minutes to find a couple of these decimals, and a fraction of a second to multiply them together. So, just leave said pathetic laptop doing some cataloguing overnight, and I have a LARGE body of LARGE randomly chosen prime numbers, and an even larger body of composite numbers to choose from.

    If the answer to my question turns out to be "A long time", then maybe I don't need to mess about with silkworms.

    If the answer to my question turns out to be "A few minutes"......then I need to start on 600 long primes, and do cataloging for a bit longer!

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Someone here can tell me.....

      Ah, you need my implementation of Tiny Basic, a 1976 interpreter running on a sofware emulation of the hardware inside an 8080 chip, implemented in a logical simulation running under Java... Last night it took it almost five minutes to tell me that 2 + 3 = 5...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Someone here can tell me.....

        Good thing you weren't emulating a Pentium. Then you'd have gotten back 4.987354 or some such. :P

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Someone here can tell me.....

        Mine takes significantly longer and the answer is always 6 x 9 = 42.

        Slart I. Bartfast

        1. Mike 16

          Re: Someone here can tell me.....

          Your default output radius has been set to 13(decimal). Set it back to 10(decimal) or add 2 jokers to your 52-card deck.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        1976....Intel 8080....

        @ Neil_Barnes

        Take a look at this PDF:

        How does Tiny Basic on an 8080 deal with multiple precision arithmetic?

        And if you happen to be emulating CP/M-80, perhaps you could get BDS C to work with gmp.....or maybe not!

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: 1976....Intel 8080....

          I'm afraid Tiny Basic is - even for the time - somewhat limited: it was produced in response to Bill Gates' famous 'stop stealing my software' letter.

          It has, for storage: one array of characters (I think) and twenty-six signed sixteen bit numeric variables. That's it... I'm still trying to work out how to find a prime number efficiently. I suspect that the multiple precision stuff may be a bit beyond it.

          I also wrote[0] a software emulation that runs directly in a terminal, and that's a *lot* faster than the original and a hello world of a lot faster than the emulator. I'll perhaps get around to running CP/M on that, and then eventually on the hardware version of the 8080 simulator.

          [0] I know, I know, but having an emulator that I knew worked helped no end in making the emulator work.

    2. NoneSuch Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Someone here can tell me.....

      "Assume your adversary is capable of one trillion guesses per second. If the device you store the private key and enter your passphrase on has been hacked, it is trivial to decrypt our communications."


  7. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Anyone wearing silk is a proven killer

    "...without considering whether it is ethical to add silkworms to the infosec workforce."

    Making silk garments means killing the caterpillars: because if the moth eats it way out, it would break the thread and you couldn't unwind the cocoon.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Anyone wearing silk is a proven killer

      > because if the moth eats it way out

      You mean worms its way out?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't be silly - it's not a silkworm any more. It moths its way out.

        (...Besides, it's been in there for ages - it needs its grub.)

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anyone wearing silk is a proven killer

      FYI, the cocoon is dropped in boiling water soon after it's complete. Inside is a caterpillar, not a moth, and it's not hungry anymore.

      As far as the idea, encapsulated wood veneer seems to be more practical, although then you're killing trees.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just waiting ..

    ..for any magic dragon comments.


  9. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Clothes moths

    The next generation military weapon.

    [We need a bug icon.]

  10. Unicornpiss

    It was a good idea..

    ..but they forgot to sanitize the inputs and it was quickly hacked by inputting a rapid succession of 1970s plaids from old polyester suits, causing a multi-system crash and temporary blindness in some of the system operators..

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK has advanced beyond that

    If you want a truly random number, just look at whatever the number of parties at Downing St. is this moment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The UK has advanced beyond that

      A better onei s the number of porkies the PM has told. Increasing exponentially.

  12. R.O.

    Smooth as silk

    Rather than a patch of silk, seems to me one strand about 2-4mm long would do.Put that in an hardened plastic or metal case with a viewing port for the light. Or, find some other material that is more durable but has similar qualities. How about a very small diamond or crystal? I do wonder how this is different in the end than an old fashioned skeleton key.

  13. Bryan W

    Oh, THAT silk

    Came to this article wondering what newfangled crypto fad acronym SILK stood for. Left learning they meant actual freaking silk.

    Color me impressed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh, THAT silk

      Impressed 2

  14. 0x80004005

    What goes around comes around...

    A similar system to tally sticks:

    They were used to record government debts - the amount would be marked on a stick and then broken down the middle. One half was kept by the bank, the other by the borrower. The debt could be paid back by reuniting the two parts; and it would be impossible to fake the exact shape of the split!

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