Tempered Glass-Based Data Chip Can Self-Destruct To Prevent Data Theft

Ever wondered what would happen if you lose an encryption key that is used to gain access to highly valuable and sensitive data. The scenario would be devastating.

In order to combat such disastrous events, engineers and researchers over at PARC, a Xerox’s company, have developed a chip with an amazing capability to self-destruct on command within a matter of seconds. Once destructed, the chip becomes completely unusable hence preventing data theft and providing a revolutionary device for ultimate data security.

The chip is developed by DARPA as part of their vanishing programmable resources project. These chips can be used for the storage of data that requires high-level of security such as encryption keys.

The chip is designed on a glass, which we all know can be shattered, that has the capability to shatter into a million teeny-weeny pieces. The researchers used Corning Gorilla Glass and transformed it into a tempered glass to make sure that the reconstruction of shattered pieces becomes next to impossible.

The Gorilla Glass produced by Corning is a tough glass that is being widely used in the smartphone displays to protect screens from shattering or scratching from rough usage. But researchers further conducted experiments with the glass and able to rebuild to transform it into tempered glass under stress.

“We take the glass and we ion-exchange temper it to build in stress,”
 said Gregory Whiting, a senior scientist at PARC in Palo Alto, California. “What you get is glass that, because it’s heavily stressed, breaks it fragments into tiny little pieces.”

PARC demonstrated this revolutionary data storage chip at DARPA’s event named “Wait, What?” happened last week in St. Louis.

In the demonstration, the glass was stressed to the breaking point using a small amount of heat from a laser-based heater. What happens is a heat-detecting circuit is embedded into the chip that uses a small resistor. Once the resistor is heated up to its configured perimeter, the glass shatters into thousands of tiny pieces. All of this happens within a matter of seconds.

The glass is technologically so advanced, it continues to break into smaller pieces even after several seconds of shattering.

“The applications we are interested in are data security and things like that. We really wanted to come up with a system that was very rapid and compatible with commercial electronics,” said Gregory Whiting.

This new technology assures a complete security of data stored within the chip, which can be destroyed easily if it falls into the wrong hands.

In the demonstration video, researchers used laser sensors to initialize destruction process but anything could be used to trigger the destruction command, from a radio frequency signal to a mechanical switch. It completely depends on the scenario the chip would be used.

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