Schneier on Security
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January 5, 2007
Molecular Keypad Lock
...a group of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovat, Israel have crafted a molecule-sized "keypad lock" that "only activates when exposed to the correct password, a sequence of chemicals and light.
Posted on January 5, 2007 at 7:01 AM
• 10 Comments
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Maybe I'm jumping the gun a bit, but wouldn't a denial of service attack be very easy on a lock as tiny and sensitive as this one? On second thoughts, ordinary macroscopic key locks are just as prone - even through accidents during normal use. (Snapping the key off in the lock.)
Must be finnicky to align the key molecule with the sensor molecule perfectly every time. And don't take your key near the pool - just a whiff of chlorine gas would destroy acidic molecules on the key. "Difficult to use" surely trumps "difficult to duplicate" any day of the week.
"...finnicky to align..."
That's generally not an issue in chemistry - but you do tend to have to wait for the molecules to attract and line up. (Think DNA processing in the lab.)
As for the DoS attack ... I'd suspect it's very prone to such things as destructive compounds.
I'm not a chemical engineer, so it's hard for me to judge potential effectiveness. However, it's interesting that so many cool ideas like this come out of Israel, while those of us in the USA continually work on crafting expensive new stage curtains for the Security Theater.
It would be nice to have more information on the number of key combinations there are.
However even if very limited, if multiple "locks" are built into an array it could form an interesting way to send Key-Mat out.
I suspect we will either here a good deal more about this "lock" in the near future or it will fade away quicker than a snow flake in the heat of the sun.
I would tend to argue it's related to the fact that Israel has a real and immediate threat to be dealt with.
Not to say the US might not actually have a real an immediate threat, but we've had a lot fewer attacks on our soil in the last 10 years vs. Israel.
During the cold war and particularly WWII (when there was a lot of Actual Active Attacks on US Soil), there was a lot of real developments in security. It is a shame that we've been reduced to security-theater-for-profit.
Like every for-the-layman scientific discovery article ever, I think the reporter is over-selling the potential for this in a domain where it probably will not have major aplications.
What these guys have done, is more secure than writing in lemon juice (a combination key pad with one button), but as there are all sorts of non-destructive techniques that one could use to get the structure (or at least clues to the structure) of a molecule, teasing out the sequence that synthesizes the signaling product of this compound wouldn't be all that hard for that sorts of organizations that might bother to put a nanotech lock on their data in the first place.
I think it more likely that this would be useful as part of play/pause/stop mechanism in some future nanotech device.
[quote]"Difficult to use" surely trumps "difficult to duplicate" any day of the week.[/quote]
My motto is "Security without inconvenince isn't very secure."
Since "a sequence of chemicals and light" is pretty much the definition of any reaction sequence that involves EM energy at some point, it seems that the advance consists of thinking about reactions as locking mechanisms. Which could indeed be pretty cool.
The article that is directly linked to above is horrendous. Yahoo (http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20061227/sc_livescience/scientistscreatemoleculesizekeypadlock) has a version which actually makes sense to someone who has some Chemistry background, if it still tells relatively little about the chemical mechanisms used, or even what the advance is (using the same chemical to react by giving out different colored lights to different stimuli would not be a significant advance, but perhaps its ability to self-reset is). His paper does not yet appear to be on-line.
@avery - Yes. However, I'd assume that if it were ever used as a "lock", it would be encased in something tamper-resistant. Otherwise, why not just bypass the lock?
Just a note:
The city is Rehovot, not Rehovat. :)
and about the Israeli stimulant - imagine that you are surrounded by non-democratic countries, that use you as a focal point to their populace rage - instead of them.
add some fanatical religion followers (not many, but enough though) - what did you get?
an atmosphere where innovation grows because of immediate need.
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