Infrared Radiation From Our Hands Could Be the Future of Encryption

Yes, you might transmit your most valuable data using a very practical tool: your hand.
Chris Young

A team of engineers from China is developing a new method for using infrared radiation emitted from the human hand to decrypt secret data and create passcodes, a report by Inverse explains.

In a paper published Monday, April 5, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team detailed how infrared radiation from the hand (essentially heat emitted by our bodies) could be harnessed to allow for a host of security applications.

Their method would be controlled by the human body, allowing for a power-free, multi-functional decryption system that would not become obsolete — unless we eventually merge with AI and leave our bodies behind.

The concept is focused on the light given off by infrared radiation — invisible to the naked eye, the radiation is already utilized by technologies such as night vision goggles that allow wearers to see animals or humans in the dark via their heat signature.

Infrared Radiation From Our Hands Could Be the Future of Encryption
That's not Master Hand from Super Smash Bros. It's a depiction of the infrared light signals emitted by the human hand. Source: An et al./PNAS

"The use of human components as IR light sources may provide a promising way to increase the controllability and flexibility of the engineered systems," wrote the authors. "[T]he human hand is not just a natural and powerless IR light source, but also a multiplexed light source with each finger serving as an independent light source."

How infrared radiation encryption would work

In order to test their idea, the researchers used a low-reflectivity polydimethylsiloxane spray on aluminum to encrypt a hidden message that was "tared" at ambient temperature. This meant that when extra infrared radiation was added via the hand, the hidden message was revealed.

Infrared Radiation From Our Hands Could Be the Future of Encryption
Extra infrared radiation emitted by the human hand was used to reveal a hidden pattern in the researchers' experiment. Source: An et al./PNAS

The most important discovery, however, was the fact that the decryption process could be honed to work at different depths, the authors explained in their paper.

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This means that fingerprints — each with their unique contours belonging only to one individual — could be used as a non-copiable encryption key.

The researchers say that the potential use of hand IR light for encryption would pose two major benefits: it would offer a sustainable encryption-decryption system (as the heat from human homeostasis is all that's required), and would also future proof encryption.

It is feared that in the not-too-distant future, quantum computers will be too powerful for our current encryption methods, meaning new methods must be devised. Who would have thought one of those methods is already right in the palm (or fingers) of our hands.

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