- Press Release Distribution

Scientists harness chaos to protect devices from hackers

New tech packs computer chips with "uncountable" secrets

( COLUMBUS, Ohio - Researchers have found a way to use chaos to help develop digital fingerprints for electronic devices that may be unique enough to foil even the most sophisticated hackers.

Just how unique are these fingerprints? The researchers believe it would take longer than the lifetime of the universe to test for every possible combination available.

"In our system, chaos is very, very good," said Daniel Gauthier, senior author of the study and professor of physics at The Ohio State University.

The study was recently published online in the journal IEEE Access.

The researchers created a new version of an emerging technology called physically unclonable functions, or PUFs, that are built into computer chips.

Gauthier said these new PUFs could potentially be used to create secure ID cards, to track goods in supply chains and as part of authentication applications, where it is vital to know that you're not communicating with an impostor.

"The SolarWinds hack that targeted the U.S. government really got people thinking about how we're going to be doing authentication and cryptography," Gauthier said.

"We're hopeful that this could be part of the solution."

The new solution makes use of PUFs, which take advantage of tiny manufacturing variations found in each computer chip - variations so small that they aren't noticeable to the end user, said Noeloikeau Charlot, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in physics at Ohio State.

"There's a wealth of information in even the smallest differences found on computers chips that we can exploit to create PUFs," Charlot said.

These slight variations - sometimes seen only at the atomic level - are used to create unique sequences of 0s and 1s that researchers in the field call, appropriately enough, "secrets."

Other groups have developed what they thought were strong PUFs, but research showed that hackers could successfully attack them. The problem is that current PUFs contain only a limited number of secrets, Gauthier said.

"If you have a PUF where this number is 1,000 or 10,000 or even a million, a hacker with the right technology and enough time can learn all the secrets on the chip," Gauthier said.

"We believe we have found a way to produce an uncountably large number of secrets to use that will make it next to impossible for hackers to figure them out, even if they had direct access to the computer chip."

The key to creating the improved PUF is chaos, a topic that Gauthier has studied for decades. No other PUFs have used chaos in the way demonstrated in this study, he said.

The researchers created a complex network in their PUFs using a web of randomly interconnected logic gates. Logic gates take two electric signals and use them to create a new signal.

"We are using the gates in a non-standard way that creates unreliable behavior. But that's what we want. We are exploiting that unreliable behavior to create a type of deterministic chaos," Gauthier said.

The chaos amplifies the small manufacturing variations found on the chip. Even the smallest differences, when amplified by chaos, can change the entire class of possible outcomes - in this case, the secrets that are being produced, according to Charlot.

"Chaos really expands the number of secrets that are available on a chip. This will likely confuse any attempts at predicting the secrets," Charlot said.

One key to the process is letting the chaos run just long enough on the chip, according to Gauthier. If you let it run too long, it becomes - well, too chaotic.

"We want the process to run long enough to create patterns that are too complex for hackers to attack and guess. But the pattern must be reproducible so we can use it for authentication tasks," Gauthier said.

The researchers calculated that their PUF could create 1077 secrets. How big is that number? Imagine if a hacker could guess one secret every microsecond - 1 million secrets per second. It would take the hacker longer than the life of the universe, about 20 billion years, to guess every secret available in that microchip, Gauthier said.

As part of the study, the researchers attacked their PUF to see if it could be successfully hacked. They attempted machine learning attacks, including deep learning-based methods and model-based attacks - all of which failed. They are now offering their data to other research groups to see if they can find a way to hack it.

Gauthier said the hope is that PUFs like this could help beef up security against even state-sponsored hacker attacks, which are generally very sophisticated and backed up with a lot of computer resources.

For example, Russia is suspected of backing the SolarWinds hack that was uncovered in December. That hack reportedly gained access to email accounts of officials in the Department of Homeland Security and the department's cybersecurity staff.

"It is a constant battle to come up with technology that can stay ahead of hackers. We are trying to come up with technology that no hacker - no matter your resources, no matter what supercomputer you use - will be able to crack."

The researchers have applied for an international patent for their PUF device.

The goal of the team is to move beyond research and to move quickly to commercialize the technology. Gauthier and two partners recently founded Verilock, with a goal of bringing a product to market within a year.

"We see this technology as a real game changer in cybersecurity. This novel approach to a strong PUF could prove to be virtually un-hackable," said Jim Northup, CEO of Verilock.


The work was supported in part by the U.S. Department of the Army with Potomac Research, LLC, through the project Physically Unclonable Functions on FPGAs, and by the Ohio Federal Research Network with Asymmetric Technologies, LLC and Ohio University, through the project Resilient and Enhanced Security UAS Flight Control.

Other co-authors on the study were Daniel Canaday and Andrew Pomerance of Potomac Research in Alexandria, Virginia.

Contact: Daniel Gauthier, Noeloikeau Charlot,

Written by Jeff Grabmeier,


Memory and executive function symptoms more accurate for predicting CTE than mood, behavior

(Boston)--Diagnosing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) during life is crucial for developing therapies and for determining how common the disease is among individuals exposed to repetitive head impacts from contact sports, military service and physical violence. While the ability to diagnose CTE prior to death has remained elusive, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) for the first time have shown that progressive memory loss and issues with executive function, the ability to focus, follow directions, and problem-solve, are more useful for predicting CTE pathology than mood and behavior symptoms. CTE is a progressive brain disease. Clinically, impulsivity, explosivity, depression, memory impairment and executive dysfunction have been reported to ...

An amyloid link between Parkinson's disease and melanoma

An amyloid link between Parkinsons disease and melanoma
WASHINGTON, April 7, 2021 -- On the surface, Parkinson's disease -- a neurodegenerative disorder -- and melanoma -- a type of skin cancer -- do not appear to have much in common. However, for nearly 50 years, doctors have recognized that Parkinson's disease patients are more likely to develop melanoma than the general population. Now, scientists report a molecular link between the two diseases in the form of protein aggregates known as amyloids. The researchers will present their results today at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS Spring 2021 is being held online April 5-30. Live sessions will be hosted April ...

Comfort care beneficial for hospitalized stroke patients, yet disparities in use persist

DALLAS, April 7, 2021 — Receiving palliative or hospice care services was found to improve quality of life for hospitalized ischemic stroke patients, however, disparities persist in which patients are prescribed or have access to these holistic comfort care options, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, stroke ranked No. 5 among all causes of death in the U.S. Nearly 9 in 10 strokes are ischemic strokes caused by a blockage in a blood vessel that carries blood to the brain. Despite advances in acute stroke treatment and management, stroke remains a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the U.S. “Stroke ...

Skoltech scientists create a new electronegativity scale

Skoltech chemists have proposed a new electronegativity scale and published their findings in Nature Communications. The concept of electronegativity introduced by Linus Pauling, a great American chemist, in the 1930s refers to the ability of an atom to attract electron density. In a chemical bond, the more electronegative atom gains extra electrons, becoming negatively charged, while the less electronegative one loses electrons and becomes positively charged. Electronegativity is a fundamental notion, essential for explaining things that range from chemical bonds' energy to the (in)stability of chemical compounds and the color and hardness of crystals. Since then, chemists have come up with various definitions and scales of electronegativity. Yet Pauling's ...

The future of biodiversity collections

Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the crucial role played by biodiversity collections in enabling rapid responses to crises and in facilitating ongoing research across numerous fields. Despite the recognized value of this infrastructure, the community nevertheless has further opportunities to maximize its value to the scientific enterprise. Writing in BioScience, Barbara Thiers of the New York Botanical Garden and colleagues describe ( the necessary steps for the biodiversity collections community to vouchsafe its position as an important catalyst of research. The authors draw on recommendations ...

We don't know how most mammals will respond to climate change, warn scientists

A new scientific review has found there are significant gaps in our knowledge of how mammal populations are responding to climate change, particularly in regions most sensitive to climate change. The findings are published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Animal Ecology. Nearly 25% of mammal species are threatened with extinction, with this risk exacerbated by climate change. But the ways climate change is impacting animals now, and projected to in the future, is known to be complex. Different environmental changes have multiple and potentially contrasting, ...

Family child care home providers with high diet self-efficacy are better equipped to manage stress

Philadelphia, April 7, 2021 - Building family child care home providers' (FCCH) self-efficacy--an individual's belief in their ability to manage their situation--for healthy eating is an important component of health promotion and can buffer the impact of stress on their diet quality, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, published by Elsevier. "The FCCH provider is an important source of child care in this country. A lot of families from lower-income environments use the FCCH because of its affordability and location," said Dianne Ward, EdD, of the Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA. FCCH providers can experience multiple stressors ...

Poor children are 'failed by system' on road to higher education in lower-income countries

A generation of talented but disadvantaged children are being denied access to higher education because academic success in lower and middle-income countries is continually 'protected by wealth', a study has found. The research, which used data from around 3,500 young people in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam, shows that promising but poorer students 'fall away' during their school years, as challenges associated with their socio-economic circumstances gradually erode their potential. Among children who showed similar levels of ability aged 8, for example, the wealthiest were often over 30 percentage points more likely than the least-wealthy to enter all forms of tertiary education: including university, technical colleges, and teacher training. Even ...

Are early treatments for cerebral palsy effective?

Symptoms of cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture, appear early during childhood. A new analysis examines the effectiveness of therapies initiated from birth until 3 years of age for children with or at risk for cerebral palsy. The analysis, which is published in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, included all systematic reviews from 2009-2020 that assessed the results of relevant published studies. Investigators concluded that research has generated limited supportive data and cannot yet confirm a greater benefit from early versus later interventions; however, earlier, ...

Program may help patients with rheumatic diseases quit smoking

Smoking increases symptoms and health risks for patients with rheumatic diseases, but interventions to help patients quit are rarely available at rheumatology clinics. A study published in Arthritis Care & Research has found that Quit Connect--a protocol involving electronic health record prompts for nurses and medical assistants in rheumatology clinics--can increase electronic referrals to free, state-run tobacco quite lines. Implementing Quit Connect led to electronic referrals for 71% of patients who were identified as ready to quit, with referrals taking less than 90 seconds for medical staff to complete. "There's a huge opportunity to address smoking as a modifiable risk factor in rheumatology patients, and Quit Connect was 26-times more effective than usual care for ...


Heart patients advised to move more to avoid heart attacks and strokes

New amphibious centipede species discovered in Okinawa and Taiwan

Scientists may detect signs of extraterrestrial life in the next 5 to 10 years

The fate of the planet

Tarantula's ubiquity traced back to the cretaceous

On the pulse of pulsars and polar light

Neural plasticity depends on this long noncoding RNA's journey from nucleus to synapse

A new guide for communicating plant science

The future of particle accelerators is here

Simulations reveal how dominant SARS-CoV-2 strain binds to host, succumbs to antibodies

New understanding of the deleterious immune response in rheumatoid arthritis

The Trojan-Horse mechanism: How networks reduce gender segregation

Science Advances publishes proteomics technology from Oblique Therapeutics AB

Female protective effect: Yale researchers find clues to sex differences in autism

Researchers revise indicator of mobility limitation in older adults

Study shows past COVID-19 infection doesn't fully protect young people against reinfection

A new super-Earth detected orbiting a red dwarf star

Differences in national food security best explained by household income, not agriculture

Hidden magma pools pose eruption risks that we can't yet detect

COVID-19: Scientists identify human genes that fight infection

New CRISPR technology offers unrivaled control of epigenetic inheritance

How tangled proteins kill brain cells, promote Alzheimer's, CTE

Fitted filtration efficiency of double masking during COVID-19 pandemic

Fit matters most when double masking to protect yourself from COVID-19

Thermoelectric material discovery sets stage for new forms of electric power in the future

Researchers develop microscopic theory of polymer gel

Studies suggest people with blood cancers may not be optimally protected after COVID-19 vaccination

Are our oil and gas pipelines safe during an earthquake?

Virtual humans are equal to real ones in helping people practice new leadership skills

Promising results from first-in-humans study of a novel PET radiopharmaceutical

[] Scientists harness chaos to protect devices from hackers
New tech packs computer chips with "uncountable" secrets