It’s often the simplest tricks that are the most effective. For example, not even the most advanced, most expensive data protection and encryption can guarantee that people won’t be able to get their hands on the data that’s stored on your hard drive, but you could easily take it outside and light it on fire for a bit. That would make it virtually impossible for anyone to access the data on the hard drive, even yourself, but some information is so important that it’s better to destroy it then allow it to fall into the wrong hands. That’s the idea behind the new self-destructing chip that a group of engineers at Xerox PARC have developed.
Engineers at Xerox PARC have developed a chip that will self-destruct upon command, providing a potentially revolutionary tool for high-security applications. The chip, developed as part of DARPA’s vanishing programmable resources project, could be used to store data such as encryption keys and, on command, shatter into thousands of pieces so small, reconstruction is impossible. It was demonstrated at DARPA’s Wait, What? event in St. Louis on Thursday. “The applications we are interested in are data security and things like that,” said Gregory Whiting, a senior scientist at PARC in Palo Alto, California. “We really wanted to come up with a system that was very rapid and compatible with commercial electronics.” The result is a chip based on Gorilla Glass, the Corning-produced tough glass used in the displays of numerous smartphones. “We take the glass and we ion-exchange temper it to build in stress,” said Whiting. “What you get is glass that, because it’s heavily stressed, breaks it fragments into tiny little pieces.”