A novel and theoretical encryption scheme inspired by new insights into the way that the human heart and lungs communicate is said to be substantially different than existing crypto-methods and highly resistant to conventional attacks.
The research was undertaken and published by Professors Tomislav Stankovski, Peter McClintock, and Aneta Stefanovska from the Department of Physics at the United Kingdom’s Lancaster University.
“Here we offer a novel encryption scheme derived from biology, radically different from any earlier procedure,” said Stankovski. “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.”
Under this new cryptographic scheme, the sender’s communications would be encrypted as time variations of coupling functions from a pair of dynamical systems. These encrypted communications would then travel to and be decrypted by a second pair of identical dynamical systems using the same coupling functions. This, the researchers explain, is analogous to the way in which the human heart and lungs work to communicate with one another.
According to an introduction to the concept posted by the Computer Science Department at Brown University, “Dynamical systems are mathematical objects used to model physical phenomena whose state (or instantaneous description) changes over time. These models are used in financial and economic forecasting, environmental modeling, medical diagnosis, industrial equipment diagnosis, and a host of other applications.”
For a bit of context, the researchers explain that a recent discovery in the field of biology demonstrated that cardiorespiratory coupling functions can be broken down into a number of independent functions and that those functions are of a time-varying nature. In other, simpler words: these coupling functions can essentially be deconstructed and used as ciphers.
“As so often happens with important breakthroughs,” said Professor Stefanovska, “this discovery was made right on the boundary between two different subjects – because we were applying physics to biology.”
“The use of coupling functions in this way confers an unbounded number of encryption possibilities,” the researchers wrote in a popular summary of their work. “We demonstrate that the scheme enables more than one signal to be transmitted/received simultaneously and that it is exceptionally robust against external noise.”
Using coupling functions instead of standard cryptographic methods increases security by offering a greater degree of freedom in the encryption process without changing the qualitative state of the system. Thus, the researchers believe their method is a significant conceptual advance to the field of cryptography.
Furthermore, the scheme, the researcher claim, is highly modular, which enables it to be implemented in a wide array of different applications and communications protocols.
“This promises an encryption scheme that is so nearly unbreakable that it will be equally unwelcome to internet criminals and official eavesdroppers,” McClintock claims.
The advantage here, the researchers write, is that the new method offers an infinite number of choices for the secret encryption key shared between the sender and the receiver. This makes it virtually impossible for hackers and eavesdroppers to crack the code.
“Unlike all earlier encryption procedures, this cipher makes use of the coupling functions between interacting dynamical systems,” the researchers wrote. “It results in an unbounded number of encryption key possibilities, allows the transmission or reception of more than one signal simultaneously, and is robust against external noise. Thus, the information signals are encrypted as the time variations of linearly independent coupling functions.”
You can read a PDF version of their short but dense paper here and view a diagram illustrating how their method works below: