We hear a lot about hacking these days: from the Target hack that affected over 100 million customers, to the Sony PlayStation Network hack that made international headlines. It just seems that no piece of software is impenetrable, even if strong encryption protocols are in place. So how can we protect our data? If we’re lucky, we’ll soon be using new security protocols developed by computer scientists that are so solid, their creators are calling it unhackable.
This new encryption method involves the idea of black box obfuscation. Basically, that means that although input (what you put into a program) and output (the program’s results) are untouched, the program itself gets so completely hashed during the encryption process that a hacker can’t get into its inner-workings. A team of scientists from UCLA and MIT created an obfuscator that works by inserting random bits of data into software and combining them with the software’s code, making the code distorted in a way that prevents hackers from digging into it. However, the program still runs as it’s supposed to, and the extra bits of data get trashed during output. After creating this new system and applying it to a program, the team tried every hack they could think of to crack it. However, they came up empty-handed: the obfuscator defeated their efforts each time.
This is the first time this sort of obfuscation technique has been successfully put to use. Of course, it’s still not ready for the real world. Obviously, all that extra random code makes for extremely heavy programs, and there’s also a question to ask regarding if anything is truly unhackable. But it’s a good first step in preventing the sort of hacking that both Target and Sony, along with many other companies, are vulnerable to.