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Scientists have developed a new atom-based ID system that’s nearly impossible to cheat

Despite all the recent innovations in security, there are still ways for even the most secure authentication methods to be compromised. Signatures can be forged, passwords can be cracked, and even fingerprints can be faked. But not to worry — Researchers at Lancaster University in the North West of England have a solution to that problem, and its based on the most basic element of matter: the atom.

Ph.D student Jonathan Roberts says the technology works by creating authentication schemes based on atomic-scale imperfections in nano-scale structures, which they call Quantum ID, or Q-ID for short. He says each nanostructure they’ve created has a unique identity and is nearly impossible to copy or clone.

The computing power required to simulate –and thus duplicate– these small structures at this moment is incredibly vast, and therefore cannot be done quickly. A hacker would essentially need to deconstruct the nanostructure atom by atom, which (at least at this point) would take an impossibly long amount of time.

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“One could imagine our devices being used to identify a broad range of products, whether it is authentication of branded goods, SIM cards, important manufacturing components, the possibilities are endless,” research lead Dr. Robert Young says.

Young and others say that the process to produce these Q-ID structures can be easily integrated into current chip manufacturing processes. This means adoption of the new authentication technology could be quick depending on how well it’s marketed.

The research group is seeking a patent for its efforts and plans to offer it commercially through a university-backed spinoff company called Quantum Base. The company is already offering licensing for Q-ID through its website, although there were no announcements on any early adopters of the technology.

If you’re interested in learning more about Q-ID, the study itself is available for free and in full from the Nature website.