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Encryption: You gotta have heart

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Who knew as humans we’ve always been carrying a unique embedded encryption key.

It’s not in your pocket, it’s buried in your chest.

Your heart can be doing more than keeping you alive. Taiwanese researchers think the heart’s beats can be a key cog in helping users encrypt data and communications.

Four researchers in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Taiwan’s National Chung Hsing University – Ching-Kun Chen, Chun-Liang Lin (pictured, right), Cheng-Tang Chiang, and Shyan-Lung Lin – have used electrocardiogram

(ECG) signals and mathematical concepts such as chaotic Henon and Logistic maps to create personalized cryptography.

The researchers developed an encryption algorithm based on the of chaos theory, which examines small changes in results that can make long-term predictions impossible.

The group says the random nature of ECG signals makes them an “ideal key generator for personalized data encryption.”

The heart beat system uses a handheld device the group created for capturing ECG signals. The data is then stored and used for subsequent key pair matching. In their experiments, the researchers have focused on encrypting texts and images. They have also used the ECG model to secure communications.

Researcher Liang Lin, who in 2010 was named a Fellow by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, told New Scientist the goal is to build the system into external hard drives and other devices that can be decrypted and encrypted simply by touching them.

That capability could have application in legal cases, including an on-going case of a woman ordered to provide a password to decrypt the hard drive of a laptop seized from her home as part of a criminal investigation.

Photo Credit: Toyota Technical Institute

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