Security Devices for the Digital Economy

Danielle Beurteaux

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As we advance toward a future where everything is connected, we grapple with increasing issues of security and privacy. Smart devices are predicted to reach 6.4 billion units this year and 20.8 billion by 2020, according to Gartner Inc., resulting in a new focus on solutions that keep personal information private and safe.


Credit: Dojo Labs

How do you keep an eye on your smart home? Dojo-Labs, a startup based in Israel and Palo Alto, California, wants its Dojo device to keep an eye on your Internet of Things devices. The Dojo, which is designed to look like a rock, monitors smartphones, laptops, smart thermostats, lightbulbs, appliances, and more, uploading device metadata to Dojo-Labs’ own cloud, where it’s analyzed for threats. Dojo then acts as a traffic light for security notifications, with green, yellow, and red lights to indicate current threat levels. The device learns by using pattern recognition to detect usage and traffic that deviate from the inhabitants’ typical behavior.

Natural ID

Driving could eventually become less hands-on, thanks to the influx of smart vehicles. But getting into the vehicle and turning it on may remain high touch. Tech company Synaptics, which launched the first trackpad, is working with vehicle makers to embed its Natural ID fingerprint sensors in steering wheels, car door handles, and starter buttons, implementing a security level for everything from who can start the car to the ultimate for driving peace of mind: selecting the perfect road-trip playlist.

No Holes in Your Digital Pockets

Financial systems are based on trust, but we’re living in a disruptive time for financial technology. Cashless payment methods are on the rise—and so are hacking and fraud incidents. The challenge for financial services is clear: They must deliver technology that guarantees transaction security.

Nymi Band with HeartID

Credit: Nymi

You are your heartbeat. Nymi, which makes the Nymi Band, a wearable authentication device, partnered with MasterCard on a pilot project to use heartbeats as an identifier during purchases made through a contactless payment terminal. Electrocardiograms are unique, and Nymi’s HeartID uses that singular rhythm coupled with an algorithm to create a secure biometric identifier. The band stops working once it is removed from the user’s wrist—reassurance that no one can steal your heartbeat.

Hack-Proof RFID

Credit: MIT

Texas Instruments has prototyped an RFID chip that is extremely difficult to hack. Based on research by scientists at MIT, the chip has its own random-number generator and power supply to potentially thwart two types of RFID hacks.

An RFID tag contains a data-storing microchip and an antenna that transmits the data to a reader through radio waves. The new chip aims to prevent side-channel attacks, in which a cryptographic key is stolen by analyzing use patterns; it does so by creating a new key with each transaction. The chip can also repel power-glitch attacks, hacks that analyze and exploit power supply fluctuations. The chip uses its own consistent energy supply, thanks to embedded capacitors and cells that provide continuous energy.

Quantum Security Leaps

By some estimates, quantum computing is expected to become a reality as soon as 2020. Quantum computers are based on quantum mechanics, the branch of physics that seeks to explain atoms and photons (and made famous by Schrödinger’s cat). If successful, quantum computers will far outpace any computers currently available, potentially leading to massive breakthroughs in everything from medicine to space exploration. But with great power comes great responsibility—including security. Recent innovations would offer a secure quantum future.

Entropy Engine

sap_Q216_digital_double_disruptors_images-11Quantum computing could blow conventional cryptography out of the water with super-fast computers that could more easily decrypt data. A potential solution: Whitewood Encryption Systems’ Entropy Engine, a quantum-powered random-number generator. Developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the device, a PCIe plug-in card, can generate unique cryptographic keys so quickly that conventional techniques currently favored by hackers, like brute force attacks, would be ineffective. In theory, it could also block quantum-level attacks.

It works by producing super-secret codes that cannot be decrypted by virtue of how quantum mechanics works. Photon streams send information, and interrupting the stream breaks it, thereby creating an unhackable password.

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.