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A tiny, tamper-proof ID tag can authenticate almost anything

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 tiny, tamper-proof ID tag can authenticate almost anything

MIT researchers have developed a groundbreaking cryptographic ID tag that outperforms traditional radio frequency tags (RFIDs) in size, cost, and security by using terahertz waves. Overcoming a significant security flaw of RFIDs, the new tag prevents counterfeiters from reusing it by incorporating a unique, tamper-proof design. This innovation uses a special adhesive mixed with microscopic metal particles, which, when scanned by terahertz waves, reveal a distinctive glue pattern akin to a fingerprint for authenticating the item.

The antitampering tag, measuring just 4 square millimeters, combines affordability with advanced security, making it suitable for widespread use across extensive supply chains. Its diminutive size also allows it to be applied to small objects where RFIDs cannot, such as certain medical devices.

The research, a collaboration among MIT’s Terahertz Integrated Electronics Group and the Energy-Efficient Circuits and Systems Group, introduces a novel antitampering mechanism that authenticates the item itself rather than the tag. The tag’s design features tiny slots that let terahertz waves pass through and reflect off the metal particles in the glue, creating a unique backscatter pattern that is impossible to duplicate if tampered with.

To tackle the challenge of accurately comparing glue patterns, the team employed AI, developing a machine-learning model capable of determining pattern similarity with over 99% accuracy. While the system currently requires close proximity (around 4 centimeters) between the sensor and the tag, the researchers are optimistic about overcoming this and other limitations to expand the tag’s applications.

Supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies, this research not only enhances security in supply chains but also showcases the potential of terahertz technology in solving complex authentication challenges.

The original article can be found here.

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Dr. Ravindra Shinde is the editor-in-chief and the founder of The Science Dev. He is also a research scientist at the University of Twente, the Netherlands. His research interests include computational physics, computational materials, quantum chemistry, and exascale computing. His mission is to disseminate cutting-edge research to the world through succinct and engaging cover stories.

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