Finextra announced on Tuesday (Dec. 16) that team of Dutch researchers from the University of Twente has recently developed a technology that could prevent the forgery of personal documents such as ID cards, passports or credit cards in the future. The method uses basic quantum physics principles.
Authentication data is frequently the subject of fraud as passwords and codes are easily hacked nowadays, credit cards being the primary target. For example, earlier this year Home Depot’s self-checkout systems were hacked, leading to the information leakage of 56 million credit card accounts. Furthermore, credit and debit card information leakage was reported in October, when Kmart’s store registers were the subject of a cyber-attack. Target was also hacked late last year, when data regarding approximately 40 million credit cards was intercepted by thieves.
The quantum-secure authentication (QSA), as it was dubbed by the scientists, is a method based on photon’s ability to exist in multiple places at the same time. According to their article published in the Optica journal, this quality could be used to identify a physical security key by means of Q&A exchange. The scientists described this key as “unclonable”.
In general, ATMs scan credit cards with the help of light patterns, thus identifying the user’s login data. These patterns are intercepted by hackers, who measure the entering pattern and send out the corresponding response pattern. This way they can store the user data, and create a physical duplicate. The copy is then used to enter and then empty the user’s account. Banks are unable to differentiate between the real card and the counterfeit signal projected by the hacker.
QSA implies coating the card with a thin layer of paint containing millions of nanoparticles. After that, a laser would be used to send light particles into the paint layer, where they would rebound against the nanoparticles, finally escaping back to the surface, thus creating a pattern used to establish the card’s authenticity.
If a hacker tries to intercept the process, he would ruin the photons’ quantum properties and capture only parts of the information required to authenticate the transaction.
Even though this technology prevents duplicating data, one must not forget the possibility of cards being stolen. Another downside to these new cards, according to critics, is the risk of their real owners to be unable to retrieve forgotten data from their documents.
Image Source: Wired