A space-time cloak? Time holes? It's not science fiction anymore.

New research in creating time holes to cloak events sounds esoteric, but hackers might be able to use it to mask online intrusions into IT systems.

In the “Star Trek” saga, the United Federation of Planets never figured out the cloaking technology that allowed Romulan warships to pop in and out of Federation space without being detected. But 21st-century Earth scientists are working with ways to bend light and time to achieve the same effects.

It is a technology that the government might well be interested in to mask online snooping.

“Although this sounds like science fiction, the lesson from metamaterials research in the last decade has taught us that, within certain restrictions, such speculations are not fantasy,” researchers at Imperial College London wrote in an online article published in 2010 in the Journal on Optics. “We here show how the magic of editing history can be achieved by introducing the concept of the space-time cloak.”


Related coverage:

NIST offers a how-to for must-do continuous monitoring


It is not just cloaking that could be possible with the technology, they wrote. “The space-time cloak can achieve the illusion of a matter transporter,” in which an object appears to move from one location and instantaneously appear in another.

The Imperial College research, which described the theoretical creation of a space-time cloak, or history editor, was funded in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. A practical demonstration of the cloak was described by researchers at Cornell University in a recent issue of the journal Nature.

“This approach is based on accelerating the front part of a probe light beam and slowing down its rear part to create a well controlled temporal gap — inside which an event occurs — such that the probe beam is not modified in any way by the event,” the Cornell team wrote. “The probe beam is then restored to its original form by the reverse manipulation of the dispersion.”

They succeeded in creating a time hole in a fiber-optic cable lasting 50 picoseconds (trillionths of a second) in which events could be hidden.

It is easy to imagine why the military would be interested in cloaking. It would come in handy getting an aircraft carrier past those pesky Iranians in the Straits of Hormuz. It is unlikely that the space-time cloak could be implemented on this scale before the 23rd century, however.

But consider that most of the world’s data today travels over or is accessed via fiber-optic cable. The ability to open a gap and slip something past sensors without being observed could be a powerful tool for hacking.

I don’t pretend to understand the mathematics involved in either the theory or the application, but time-cloaking and history-editing on the fly could make system monitoring and event logs useless in understanding what is going on in IT systems, especially as those systems move to optical computing as well as transport. It would be the equivalent of the old (in movies, anyway) trick of foiling a video monitoring system by running a loop image while the bad guys do their thing.

Given the resources required to develop this kind of technology and field it, we are not likely to see it in the hands of garden-variety hackers any time soon. But the U.S. government is interested. Who can say what the practical applications of this research will be?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.