Plastic Tag Makes Foolproof ID

    Date04 Oct 2002
    CategoryCryptography
    2857
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    Shine a flashlight through a shattered window and you'll project a unique pattern onto any surface beyond the window. Move the flashlight to a new angle and you'll get another unique pattern, but one that looks more like the first than . . . Shine a flashlight through a shattered window and you'll project a unique pattern onto any surface beyond the window. Move the flashlight to a new angle and you'll get another unique pattern, but one that looks more like the first than one produced by shining the light through a different shattered window.

    A scheme that leverages this principle could make counterfeiting and forgery much harder to pull off.

    Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made inexpensive identification tags, or tokens, that cannot be copied or altered by any known means. The tokens are small pieces of plastic containing tiny glass spheres that produce unique patterns of light when lasers shine through the tokens.

    The tokens are "low-cost... unique, tamper-resistant and unforgeable identifiers," said Ravikanth Pappu, one of the MIT researchers who is now a founding partner at ThingMagic. "Everyday objects -- envelopes, bank notes, passports, credit cards, et cetera -- could have... tokens attached to them and thereby obtain a unique identity," he said.

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