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Huntsman Alumni Magazine - Fall 2016

The Holy Grail of Information Security?

Jeff JohnsonPatent #9391962, “Multi-node Encryption”, is an idea that could potentially upset the entire internet industry. Describing the genesis of his idea, Huntsman Associate Professor Jeff Johnson offered the following analogy, “In the cyber world we have bad guys who are constantly trying to hurt us. Our defense against these bad guys is to build great stone walls that act as a shield. Unfortunately, over time the bad guys obtain machines that can crush stone. Surprisingly, our solution is to simply use more stones in the wall.” So, why then are we building our defenses out of the very source of our enemy’s strength?

He went on to explain that the defensive “stone wall” represents math encryption (the traditional form of cyber security). The bad guys’ “stone crushing machines” are computers designed with the very purpose of processing mathematical codes better and faster than humans ever could.

But computers struggle with some forms of language based information. The idea of language based authentication dates back to biblical times. Armies would use a particular word as a form of authentication for soldiers passing in and out of guarded borders. Each word used was selected because it was extremely difficult for their enemies to pronounce correctly. Thus, making it even more effective.

After spending the last five years researching and developing his idea, Professor Johnson was granted a patent on the second section of his project. He is continuing his efforts to obtain the patent for the first section of his proposal. In the meantime, he plans to refine his work by building and testing prototype systems.