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Physics and Security

Over the last decades, cryptography and computer security have gained central importance for the safety and prosperity of our open digital societies. Among others, they are essential for protecting critical public infrastructures; the privacy of citizens; our political institutions and their elected representatives; corporate and private intellectual property; the existing internet and the imminent internet of things; the worldwide financial system; international borders and travels; safety-critical commercial products, including pharmaceuticals; and the global supply chain.

The CAS Research Focus “Physics and Security” carefully investigates how physical methods can complement the currently prevailing, but often vulnerable digital security solutions in the above sectors. Its aim is to enable strongly improved or even completely new security features via the explicit involvement of physics. To name three illustrating examples, the Research Focus exploits quantum phenomena to realize cryptographic encryption that provably cannot be broken. If quantum mechanics is correct, the encryption will remain secure forever, regardless of any future progress in algorithms or computing power. Secondly, it studies disordered optical nanostructures as highly unforgeable “labels” or “tags” for arbitrary objects of value. Contrary to RFID-tags, these new labels do not contain or store digital secret keys; they thus avoid costly key-protecting measures, combining maximal security with cost-effectiveness. As a final example, the Research Focus investigates how novel analog circuits and photonic devices can implement trustworthy communication nodes in the internet of things, despite the potentially non-trustworthy global manufacturers fabricating them.

The outlined, highly transformative research necessitates inherently interdisciplinary efforts. To this end, LMU scientists from four different departments (computer science, physics, mathematics, and chemistry) take part in the Research Focuses’ working group. They are joined by various leading international colleagues in the scientific advisory council and as external fellows.

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