A mathematics-based breakthrough from Toshiba could be just about to make us all a lot safer. Cryptography is a branch of science that probably isn't well understood by most of us. However, we all rely on it to weave its magic when we make online transactions or use modern credit cards.
At the heart of encryption techniques is a numerical key created by a random number generator (RNG) that is supposed to render the form of cryptography used as near to unbreakable as is possible.
Not really random
Nevertheless, the fact that we hear of breaches almost every day reveals that 'near' doesn't actually mean that codes can't be broken. Among the reasons for this is the fact that RNGs don't actually produce random numbers - there's always a deeply underlying pattern that offers the hackers a sliver of hope.
As any mathematician will tell you, there's no such thing as a true RNG - hence the weakness - which is why Toshiba's new RNG circuit looks like strengthening encryption in many circumstances.
RFID made stronger
The chip achieves a quality of output that is far closer to true randomness than anything of a comparable size in use today. Crucially, it's so small (1,200 square micrometers) it can be built into gadgets and cards, including the increasingly prevalent IC card.
While the subject of cryptography is undoubtedly a complex one (read more about it here if you're interested), the end result of more secure transactions surely means we're all glad at least someone was paying attention in maths class.