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posted by janrinok on Thursday February 22, @08:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the faster-than-a-speeding-radio-wave dept.

MIT engineers developed a tag that can reveal with near-perfect accuracy whether an item is real or fake. The key is in the glue on the back of the tag.

A few years ago, MIT researchers invented a cryptographic ID tag that is several times smaller and significantly cheaper than the traditional radio frequency tags (RFIDs) that are often affixed to products to verify their authenticity.

This tiny tag, which offers improved security over RFIDs, utilizes terahertz waves, which are smaller and travel much faster than radio waves [SIC - er, no] . But this terahertz tag shared a major security vulnerability with traditional RFIDs: A counterfeiter could peel the tag off a genuine item and reattach it to a fake, and the authentication system would be none the wiser.

The researchers have now surmounted this security vulnerability by leveraging terahertz waves to develop an antitampering ID tag that still offers the benefits of being tiny, cheap, and secure.

They mix microscopic metal particles into the glue that sticks the tag to an object, and then use terahertz waves to detect the unique pattern those particles form on the item's surface. Akin to a fingerprint, this random glue pattern is used to authenticate the item, explains Eunseok Lee, an electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) graduate student and lead author of a paper on the antitampering tag.

"These metal particles are essentially like mirrors for terahertz waves. If I spread a bunch of mirror pieces onto a surface and then shine light on that, depending on the orientation, size, and location of those mirrors, I would get a different reflected pattern. But if you peel the chip off and reattach it, you destroy that pattern," adds Ruonan Han, an associate professor in EECS, who leads the Terahertz Integrated Electronics Group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics.

[...] This research project was partly inspired by Han's favorite car wash. The business stuck an RFID tag onto his windshield to authenticate his car wash membership. For added security, the tag was made from fragile paper so it would be destroyed if a less-than-honest customer tried to peel it off and stick it on a different windshield.

But that is not a terribly reliable way to prevent tampering. For instance, someone could use a solution to dissolve the glue and safely remove the fragile tag.

Rather than authenticating the tag, a better security solution is to authenticate the item itself, Han says. To achieve this, the researchers targeted the glue at the interface between the tag and the item's surface.


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Thursday February 22, @09:02PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday February 22, @09:02PM (#1345731)

    After all, who would expect a tech writer to know much about physics?

    Anyway THz waves _do_ have some interesting penetration properties:

    Terahertz radiation falls in between infrared radiation and microwave radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum, and it shares some properties with each of these. Terahertz radiation travels in a line of sight and is non-ionizing. Like microwaves, terahertz radiation can penetrate a wide variety of non-conducting materials; clothing, paper, cardboard, wood, masonry, plastic and ceramics. The penetration depth is typically less than that of microwave radiation. Like infrared, terahertz radiation has limited penetration through fog and clouds and cannot penetrate liquid water or metal.[10] Terahertz radiation can penetrate some distance through body tissue like x-rays, but unlike them is non-ionizing

    Ah, it comes to me now, THz waves _oscillate_ faster than more traditionally used frequencies of radio waves... Let's hope Adam Zewe is just doing tech writing as a side gig until he finds his true passion / competency:

    https://news.mit.edu/2023/miniscule-device-could-help-preserve-battery-life-0424#:~:text=Terahertz%20waves%2C%20found%20on%20the,them%20more%20secure%2C%20Lee%20explains. [mit.edu]

    --
    🌻🌻 [google.com]
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by bmimatt on Thursday February 22, @10:50PM (2 children)

    by bmimatt (5050) on Thursday February 22, @10:50PM (#1345744)

    A counterfeiter could peel the tag off a genuine item and reattach it to a fake, and the authentication system would be none the wiser.

    That would make the counterfeiter buy as many originals of the item as they intend to counterfeit and sell. The only value in that approach is the possibility of also selling the originals without tags at a reduced price, for more than ($original_price - $fake_price) .
    I do not know the value drop of $things once their original tag is removed, I'm not in retail business.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by janrinok on Thursday February 22, @10:59PM (1 child)

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 22, @10:59PM (#1345746) Journal

      The authentication is in the glue - any distortion of the glue changes the authentication signature thus rendering the authentication invalid. Peeling it off does distort the glue.

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by RS3 on Thursday February 22, @11:11PM

        by RS3 (6367) on Thursday February 22, @11:11PM (#1345751)

        This exactly. The randomness of the glue's molecular bonding is in effect a fingerprint.

        My concern is: will the glue bond change over time / temperature / moisture / finger/other pressure such that the THz wave scan will result in a false ID?

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 22, @11:31PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 22, @11:31PM (#1345757)

    There's an old stunt going around in California where some people were stealing car license tag validation stickers.

    We learned to affix them, as usual, then after placement, make lots of slashes over them with a razor blade. Their glue holds them in place. All that is seen is a web of tiny lines where the slashes are.

    But any attempt to remove the sticker just results in a mess of sticky confetti.

    We haven't had another attempt at stealing tag renewal stickers in years.

    We Californians also voted Proposition 47, which apparently makes theft of less than $950 not an enforceable crime. The local merchants are closing up shop in drives. Especially San Francisco and Los Angeles. Free Food, if someone will stock the shelves. I guess we need another ballot initiative to compel whoever can still pay tax and still respects law to restock the barren shelves.

    Forgive me for this off topic rant. Another election is coming up, and "Throw ALL the bastards out AND their crummy law" isn't on the docket.

    I will submit it anyway. I am sure that someone will justly mod it properly.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by janrinok on Thursday February 22, @11:40PM

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 22, @11:40PM (#1345759) Journal

      Both parts deserved a 'Interesting' - but perhaps not for the same reason.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by crm114 on Friday February 23, @03:03AM

      by crm114 (8238) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @03:03AM (#1345776)

      heh... Had that happen to us as we were leaving California.

      2 months before moving, someone ripped off our sticker. Reported to police, who said the solution was to re-register the vehicle. um... right.

      I noticed the "use a razor to slice your sticker" thing *afterward* Call me a dummy.

      Anyway, our new state has the license plate number printed on the sticker. Simple solution - not so much sticker theft here. :)

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 23, @04:45AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 23, @04:45AM (#1345785)

      We Californians also voted Proposition 47, which apparently makes theft of less than $950 not an enforceable crime.

      You have been misinformed and probably shouldn't get your facts from social media. That is not what that proposition says [apnews.com].

      “What Prop 47 did is increase the dollar amount by which theft can be prosecuted as a felony from $400 to $950 to adjust for inflation and cost of living,” Bastian said. “But most shoplifting cases are under $400 dollars to begin with, so before Prop 47 and after Prop 47, there isn’t any difference.”

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