Silkworm security? Researchers create new authentication method using silk fibers

Researchers have developed a novel way to potentially improve digital security – the use of silk as a security key. 

The proposal is the work of the South Korean Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST). 

In a paper, “Revisiting silk: a lens-free optical physical unclonable function,” published in the academic journal Nature Communications, the researchers argue that the properties of silk could be harnessed to create physical unclonable functions (PUFs).

According to the team, made up of Min Seok Kim, Gil Ju Lee, Jung Woo Leem, Seungho Choi, Young L. Kim, and Young Min Song, PUFs can act as physical security keys for digital services that cannot be duplicated or cloned. 

Hardware security keys, including Yubikey products, provide a physical security barrier for online services. Google, for example, recommends that account holders considered more ‘at risk’ of attacks use a hardware-based key in order to reduce the likelihood of compromise by requiring another level of authentication.

According to the GIST researchers, future sustainable and eco-friendly authentication keys could be created by taking advantage of the natural, microscopic differences in fiber – tiny differences that could be used to develop unique, hardware PUFs.

The fibers used to test this idea were

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