A light-based wireless communication network developed by Edinburgh-based mobile communications specialists, pureLiFi, could become an essential tool for government and business in combating terrorism and cyber crime.
With cyber crime predicted to cost the UK industry around £22bn per annum, the pureLiFi system offers a new and secure way of exchanging information over networks, using light rather than radio waves to communicate between devices.
Professor Haas, its inventor and pureLifi Chief Scientific Officer says: “Unlike existing wireless systems whose security vulnerabilities have received extensive media coverage in recent months, pureLiFi’s systems are almost impossible to intercept.”
The new light-based communication technology, known as Li-Fi, could provide a substantially increased solution to enhance data security to businesses seeking to improve data protection, from government and defence organisations, to financial, public sector, pharmaceutical, or any ‘high data risk’ industries.
By exploiting specific properties of light, the Li-Fi system prevents both sides of the communications link being intercepted. Professor Haas explains: “Let us consider what Li-Fi means for the security of public and corporate internet access. Wi-Fi signals propagate in all directions and pass through walls and all data within range can be recorded. Because Li-Fi signals travel in directional beams between an access point and a terminal, and vice versa, a potential interceptor would need to be in the overlapping space of both light beams. Even an unencrypted Li-Fi access point provides better security than Wi-Fi.”
“Li-Fi removes the uncertainty of joining a network,” he continues. “In a typical Li-Fi installation, ceiling lights which transmit and receive the data are part of the premises and this creates a chain of accountability for the security of the users’ data. The inherent security advantages of Li-Fi and the accountability that it offers, provide a supplement to the emerging need for greater data security and responsibility.”
Li-Fi is unlikely to replace Wi-Fi or 4G. It is intended to provide a complimentary solution as well as an additional layer of data security and communications for organisations or individuals.
Businesses have already shown great feedback to pureLiFi’s first product, Li-1st. The Li-1st system has been trialled within a number of organisations, with interested sectors including underwater communications, hazardous environments, telecoms, finance, aircraft manufacturing, and many more. “In fact, pureLiFi has recently undergone a second production run of the Li-1st system due to the high demand,” reveals Haas.
Technical development of the pureLiFi system in coming months will focus on higher data rates, reduced power consumption and miniaturisation. The fully mobile and networked solution (Li-Flame) will be released in the second half of 2014.
The differences between Li-Fi and conventional Wi-Fi at a glance:
- Conventional Wi-Fi travels in all directions.
- Li-Fi travels in just one direction.
- Conventional Wi-Fi permeates structures including walls
- Li-Fi can only be accessed in rooms/buildings fitted with the necessary technology.
- Conventional Wi-Fi allows an attacker to hear both sides of a conversation
- In the unlikely event that an attacker intercepts the Li-Fi signal, he only ‘hears’ one side of the conversation.