Computer time capsule: unreadable message before a certain date

Computer time capsule: unreadable message before a certain date

When it comes to encrypted messages, we generally refer to symmetric and asymmetric encryption, with their respective distinctions. Did you know, however, that it is possible to create a sort of time capsule digital using the system Timelock encryption?

The ways in which technology works are particularly inspiring. Using a set of tools, which cooperate mutually, it is in fact possible to encrypt a message up to a certain date in the future, then making it publicly accessible once the encryption has been reached. Expiration date previously set.

How it works Timelock encryption and how the time capsule is created

A time capsule is a sealed container that contains objects, documents, or messages intended to be opened or discovered in the future. The concept has its roots in the practice of burying objects significant to people future generations.

The demonstration tool Timelock encryptionaccessible via a web browser, relies on the resources made available by Cloudflare and League of Entropy to offer an innovative system useful for encrypting a message until a specific time in the future.

What is the League of Entropy and what does random number generation have to do with it

The League of Entropy is a consortium of distributed organizations that collaborate to provide a reliable and random source of entropy for cryptographic purposes. Entropy is fundamental in cryptography as it deals with the unpredictability and randomness needed to generate strong cryptographic keys.

League of Entropy

Presenting the initiative, Cloudflare wrote “not all heroes wear capes“, to underline the absolutely precious role played by the participants in the League of Entropy. The protocol used for generating random and unpredictable numbers is decentralized and is known as “drand” (distributed randomness beacon). There are many identify involved: each of them is managed by a member organization of the League of Entropy.

The main objective of the League of Entropy (this is why Cloudflare defines the participants as “heroes”) is to mitigate the risks associated with the centralized generation of random numbers, thus eliminating any vulnerabilities or factors capable of negatively influencing the process. In another article we focused on the importance of random number generators and why, in computer science, we often talk about pseudorandom numbers.

As part of the League of Entropy initiative, the organizations involved help provide a reliable source of entropy and secure, fundamental for several aspects of cryptography and computer security.

Timelock encryption to lock the contents of a message in time

The web interface of Timelock encryption takes advantage of the 18 separate organizations that make up the League of Entropy, each with 22 nodes, for protect the message until the expiration date set by the user. Since the encryption keys are distributed geographically, it is possible to take advantage of an always available system that eliminates any critical point: if a node is temporarily not working or inactive, the others are there to make up for it.

The peculiarity of the Timelock system lies in the need to achieve a minimum threshold of 12 knots to reveal the secret. This means that at least 12 organizations must work together to gain access to the encrypted message.

The author of the project, which can obviously be integrated into any type of application, has published the source on the GitHub repository.

How to test time encryption

To try time-limited data encryption, visit the application site Timelock encryptionwrite a message in the box Message on the left then indicate the number of seconds after which the ciphertext will be immediately decodable.

For example, if you wanted to try to protect your message for just 5 minutes, just leave the number 300 in the field How many seconds to encrypt. Differently, for example, if you wanted protect the message for approximately 5 yearsjust dial the number 157700000 (3600 x 24 x 365 x 5 seconds).

Capsula del tempo, Timelock encryption

After clicking Encryptyou get an encrypted message that can easily be copied elsewhere by selecting the button Copy.

Time Capsule: Ciphertext

Decoding the encrypted message in time

By copying and pasting the encrypted message into the box Decrypt and trying to decode ityou will get the warning “Unable to decrypt, you might need to wait longer“. At least until the expiration date and time has been reached time coding.

Decode encrypted message in time

Application fields of time encryption o Timelock encryption

A cybersecurity researcher might encryption the details of one vulnerability and schedule their public disclosure at a future date, ensuring that the information is accessible only after allowing interested parties time to correct the problem.

In a’to stay a sealed offersparticipants can send their offers in encrypted form using the system Timelock encryption. Bids remain secret until a specific date and time, when they are revealed simultaneously, ensuring transparency and preventing auction manipulation.

The time encryption mechanism, again, could be exploited to protect the integrity and secrecy of votes in contexts online elections or in other electronic voting systems, in quiz games or other challenges, in which the answers are revealed only after a certain period of time, ensuring fairness and avoiding risks of fraud.

Finally, the same system could be used to transfer securely digital goods e password to heirs or designated beneficiaries, only after the death of the interested party.

The possibilities, however, are virtually endless and can be adapted to a wide range of scenarios and needs. In fact, those just mentioned are just some of the most common use cases: the scenarios that open up are truly extensive.

Opening image credit: – BlackJack3D

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