IISc Says Team Has Developed Enhanced Data Encryption, Security Device

A team from an Indian Institute of Science has developed a “record-breaking” true random number generator (TRNG), which can improve data encryption and provide enhanced security for sensitive digital data such as credit card details, passwords and other personal information. The study describing this device was published in the journal ACS Nano, the Bengaluru-based Institute of Ismaili Studies, in a press release on Friday.

“Almost everything we do on the Internet is encrypted for security. The strength of this encryption depends on the quality of random number generation,” says Nethin Abraham, PhD student in the Department of Electrical Communications Engineering (ECE), International Institute of Ismaili Studies (IISc).

Abraham is part of the IISc team led by Kausik Majumdar, Associate Professor at ECE.

Encrypted information can only be decrypted by authorized users who have access to an encryption “key”. But the key has to be unexpected, and therefore randomly generated to resist hacking.

Cryptographic keys are typically generated in computers that use pseudo-random number generators (PRNGs), which rely on mathematical formulas or preprogrammed tables to produce numbers that appear random but are not.

In contrast, TRNG extracts random numbers from inherently random physical processes, which makes it much safer.

In IISc’s “hack” TRNG device, random numbers are generated using the random motion of electrons.

It consists of an artificial electronic trap created by stacking atomic thin layers of materials such as black phosphorous and graphene. The measured current from the device increases when the electron is trapped, and decreases when it is released. Since the electrons move in and out of the trap in a random way, the measured current also changes randomly. The timing of this change determines the resulting random number, the statement said.

“You cannot predict exactly when an electron will enter the trap. Therefore, there is an inherent randomness involved in this process,” Majumdar explains.

The device’s performance in benchmark tests for cryptographic applications designed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) exceeded Majumdar’s own expectations.

“When I first came up with the idea, I knew it would be a good random number generator, but I didn’t expect it to have a record high entropy,” he says.

Min-entropy is a parameter used to measure the performance of TRNGs. Its value ranges from zero (completely predictable) to one (completely random). The device from Majumdar Laboratory showed a record high of 0.98, which is a significant improvement over the previously reported values ​​of about 0.89.

“We have by far the highest entropy reported among TRNGs,” Abraham says. The team’s electronic TRNG is also more compact than its more optical-heavy counterparts.

“Because our devices are purely electronic, millions of these devices can be created on a single chip,” Majumdar adds.

He and his group plan to improve the device by making it faster and developing a new manufacturing process that will enable mass production of these chips.

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