A group of scientists from the University of Binghamton have recently presented a prototype that uses a new type of encryption — heartbeats. The system takes advantage of the unique rhythmic patterns that every human has in this muscular organ.
The team's goal, led by Chinese engineer Zhanpeng Jin, was to create quick, effective and low-cost protection, that not only protects our personal data short term, but that could also also have applications for our network accounts.
For several years the tech industry has devoted huge investments and time to biometric information for these purposes, allowing us to unlock phones with our fingerprints and even eyeballs.
"The electrocardiogram signal is one of the most important and common physiological parameters to be collected and analyzed so that we can fully understand the patient's state of health,” Jin wrote in the presentation paper of the project. “While these electrical impulses are used for medical diagnoses, which are then archived in digital repositories, we reuse this for data encryption.Through this strategy, the security and privacy of everything collected can be assured at a minimal economic cost.”
The scientific finding was made when the engineer began to analyze different results from different electrocardiograms, where he realized that each rhythmic pattern was unique, thus marking a kind of footprint in each of the studied subjects.
The idea came, however, when he began to relate the material he had and the procedures that doctors perform to manipulate the information of these exams, since everything is recorded and archived during the process, making it eventually vulnerable to cyber attacks.
The implementation of this system is in accordance with a law enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2009, which states that the use of paper for medical records is strictly prohibited, giving priority to digital media to file such records.
The biggest problem in the keeping of these reports is the fear that it is vulnerable to possible hacking by third parties. That is where Zhanpeng Jin’s method comes into play, since only its owner will be able to unlock the system.
Obviously, many questions arise: what happens to heart rhythm disturbances? Or whether the encryption is final even after the subject in question dies? However, plans of the scientists are still in development and there are many things left to improve before implementing the system in a definitive way.
These news could revolutionize the way we secure our information and many doors are opening for protection of data we consider sensitive. However, we will certainly have to wait a few years before seeing this method go to work.