Get the software engineering slant on items from the recent news.
If These Walls Could Talk...
Move over, Martha Stewart, here comes something that’s going to knock your hand-knitted, vegetable-dyed, silk/angora-mix socks off. Stealth wallpaper. British defense contractor BAE Systems has created wallpaper that will prevent outsiders from listening in on company Wi-Fi networks. In the past, the solution to this potential security vulnerability was to plaster walls with aluminum foil and use radio-wave-absorbent glass in the windows.
While this method effectively blocks electromagnetic emissions, it also renders cell phones useless inside the protected facility. Ofcom, the UK’s telecom regulator, hired BAE to develop a product that not only deters unauthorized access to the company network but also is engineered to allow cell phone signals to pass through.
BAE created the Wi-Fi-deflecting wallpaper using the same technology employed on stealth bombers and fighter jets, and to hide military radars. The wallpaper is comprised of Frequency Selective Surface (FSS) panels, which are made of copper-coated Kapton, the same polymer used to make printed circuit boards.
Most of the copper on one side of the ultrathin (0.1 millimeter) panels is removed, leaving a grid of crosses. Crosses turned 45 degrees are etched on the other side of the panel, leaving a copper film with a grid of cross-shaped holes. According to BAE, the size and spacing of the crosses allow only certain frequencies to pass through while blocking all others.
Although the stealth wallpaper can be mass-produced relatively inexpensively, don’t call in the interior decorator just yet. BAE has expressed its intention to develop the panels commercially, but a timeframe for widespread availability has not been released. —newscientist.com; silicon.com
“It took us down hard,” said Dick Malone, Chicago Tribune senior vice president and general manager in reference to a coding error that recently delayed the printing of the newspaper for several hours. A botched computer upgrade caused an error in the editing system that stopped the edited pages from being sent to the printing plant. As a result of the coding mishap, printing of the Tribune began more than five hours late and the edition was reduced to 24 pages, half of its normal size. —orlandosentinel.com
Security Isn't Rocket Science-It's Quantum Physics
Security meets science in the quest for undefeatable data defense. Using the properties of quantum physics, engineers are developing encryption devices that may prove unbreakable
Quantum cryptography works by transmitting the key used to scramble data via photons (light). Quantum physics ensures the key stream’s properties will change if anyone tries to read it.
“Once you can guarantee the key is secret, you can use that for encrypting the data or for any other cryptographic tasks you want to do,” said Dr. Andrew Shields, leader of the Quantum Information Group at a Toshiba laboratory.
Quantum cryptography could be a valuable security asset for those organizations that deal in sensitive data including financial-services companies, telecom carriers, and governments.
The theory behind this technology is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which holds that the act of observing or measuring a particle will result in a change in its behavior.
Under the laws of quantum physics, a moving photon can be oriented vertically, horizontally, or diagonally in opposing directions. Lasers can emit a single photon, which has a specific orientation. A hacker can use a photon detector to record that orientation, but doing so will change the photon’s orientation. This will tip off the sender and the receiver who can then re-encode their transmission or change to a different line.
Quantum cryptography is an immature technology, and there are still several kinks that must be worked out. For example, researchers have only been able to send