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Department of Mathematics and Computer Science partners with Tento Technologies

Tento Friday 10 July 2015

Liverpool Hope University has begun working with London-based Tento Technologies to develop new visual cryptography technology for smartphones, which could rid the world of remembered passwords.

The University's Department of Mathematics and Computer Science is one of the few places in the world where research is done into visual cryptography (VC) – hiding secret messages in sequences of random numbers or dots.

Liverpool Hope University Doctoral candidate Neil Buckley and Dean of Science Professor Atulya Nagar are working on mathematical models and algorithms to perfect the security of the Tento Token Authentication System, using digital applications of the principle of ‘secret sharing’.

Secret sharing separates a confidential message into a number of ‘shares’, each containing no information whatsoever. It is only when subsets of these shares combine that a message is recovered. Visual secret sharing splits a confidential image into ‘shares’ of random pixels, which can be printed and stacked to reveal the secret.

Digital applications of this method allow visual cryptography to deliver dynamic one-time encrypted logins. A bank, phone operator or employer issue a private share which is stored in a smartphone and a second share is sent to an app in the phone to reveal the secret code, which changes on every use. It allows for secure internet access and online payments, and can also be adapted to detect counterfeit packaging and tickets. 

When users download the free Tento app, they receive an embedded personal TentoID. When they log into a website that has Tento plugins installed, the website throws up a QR-code. The user scans that QR code with their mobile device and it will reveal a one-time use login on their mobile device’s screen, which they can then type in to their chosen website to gain secure access. 

In effect, your mobile device, when used with the TentoID app and website plug-ins, becomes a secure password generator. The password is visual, so not only can a hacker not have access to it, but even the user's mobile phone doesn't know the password. The password is also destroyed as soon as the user has entered it into their chosen website.

The system has been patented in the UK and USA and has patents pending in Canada and Europe. Tento Technologies recently secured £35000 from the Department for Business Innovation & Skills after winning their Innovate UK 2015 Cyber Security Digital Catapult conference in London. Liverpool Hope’s collaboration with Tento developed after Neil presented his research at an invited talk at the British Computer Science in London in March 2015.  

Neil and Professor Nagar have previously worked with Liverpool Hope Visiting Professor Dr S. Arumugam - a leading authority on graph theory who specialises in applications of Graph Theory in Cryptography.

Professor Atulya Nagar said: “This is an important area of research in Cyber Security in general and information encryption in particular. Liverpool Hope’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, which is based in the Faculty of Science, is internationally recognised for its expertise in Computational Mathematics and we have a growing University-Industry linkage and knowledge transfer activities”.

Howard Yates, Managing Director  of Tento Technologies said: “We were delighted to have discovered that Neil Buckley at Liverpool Hope is researching visual cryptography and even more delighted that he and Professor Nagar have agreed to work with us on the development of our authentication products.  Proof of identity and transactional trust are at the heart of our products and these factors will be boosted by the academic credibility that our collaboration will bring."

Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Professor Atulya Nagar - profile

Video: how the system works

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