As mystics search for the lost island of Atlantis and UFO buffs seek out alien spacecraft, cryptologists are continuing their own quest to create an unbreakable code.
Michael Rabin, a Harvard University computer science professor, believes he has moved cryptology a step closer to its Holy Grail by developing a code that’s undecipherable, even by those who have access to both the cypher text and unlimited computing power.
Rabin’s Hyper-Encryption technology, which uses a device that quickly generates a deluge of random bits, relies on both time and money to thwart even the most dedicated code breaker. A coded message would be hidden within the bits “like raisins in a pudding,” quips Rabin. While anyone can read the random bits, the transmission rate is so high that storing all of the stream for analysis would be either technically unfeasible or cost prohibitive.
Hyper-Encryption has sparked the interest of several U.S. government agencies, says Rabin. He also claims to have received inquiries from some wealthy investors and at least one major venture capital fund. But Rabin states he’s not currently interested in the technology’s commercial potential. “Right now, commerce comes second to science,” he says.
Hyper-Encryption, however, is not entirely trouble free. The chief concern is cost, since the technology requires users to send continuous, intense streams of high-speed data across already bandwidth-starved networks. Rabin’s solution is to create a dedicated global satellite system. “The cost could be shared by its users,” he says. In any case, Hyper-Encryption is designed to safeguard highest-level government secrets, not routine commercial and personal transmissions. “It’s most appropriate for protecting national interests and large sums of money,” says Rabin.
Although Hyper-Encryption exists only on the blackboard, Rabin maintains that the technology is ready for use. “There’s mathematical proof the Hyper-Encryption provides everlasting security, so there’s nothing left to do but implement it,” he says.