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Baras wins 'Innovator of the Year' Award

Components of the key management system.
Components of the key management system.

Professor John Baras (ECE/ISR) has been honored as a 2009 Maryland Innovator of the Year, for his invention “Method and Implementation for Key Generation and Replacement using Markov Models.” The awards are sponsored by the Maryland Daily Record.

Baras has created a technology that allows for message encryption and its reversal while greatly reducing the potential for third-party security breaches. The system was created in collaboration with alumnus Dr. Paul Yu (ECE Ph.D 2008), a doctoral student of Dr. Baras at the time and now a researcher at the Army Research Laboratory, and Dr. Brian Sadler of the Army Research Laboratory. This innovation builds upon the physical layer authentication system previously developed by the team.

About the technology
The goal was to solve the central problem of key management, which is that a typical key is in escalating danger of compromise the longer it is used. Unless efficient replacement algorithms are used, key replacement can be expensive. The system developed by Baras and his team requires that users be identified by physical means such as physical characteristics of the transmitted signals, biometrics, or chip characteristics, which are used to construct the secret keys, while at the same time replacement keys are generated by exploiting the randomness of Markov models, which essentially disconnect past and future keys from the present one. This eliminates the need for either trusted third parties or explicit communication between sender and receiver. The system allows for high security with only modest communication, computation and memory requirements, and makes it nearly impossible for adversaries to deduce the current session key. Even if somehow the current key was decoded, the adversary would not have an advantage in trying to figure out past or future keys.

The innovative system has a very wide applications space including health care, banking and e-commerce, numerous defense applications, and can be used with any portable electronic device (PDAs, phones, computers, sensors. It is applicable to nearly any situation in which keeping information secret is important, such as any scenario requiring secret keys, message authentication codes, high rate encryption/decryption, physical layer authentication of portable wireless devices, as the invention allows one to vary the authentication structure over time and it enables rapid and low cost key switching.

About the Innovator of the Year awards
The Innovator of the Year awards program recognizes Maryland residents and companies who have introduced innovations that have had a positive effect on their business, industry or community.

Nominees can be individuals or companies from any sector. The innovation can be a product, a service, a program or a process. The only requirements are that the nominee live or work in Maryland and that the innovation was introduced in the 12 months previous to the deadline.

The award ceremony and reception took place at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Baras is one of 26 winners statewide.

Related Articles:
Baras, Yu, Sadler issued patent for wireless communication authentication
Alumna Enlu Zhou wins NSF CAREER Award for optimization and sampling in stochastic simulation
Baras, Yu win ECE Department's first Jimmy Lin Award

October 29, 2009


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