In Brief
On military operations, secure lines of communication are absolutely essential. A new chip developed by the US Air Force can is a self-contained encryption engine that's no larger than a cracker.

Small Packages

The US Air Force has developed a new “Mini Crypto” chip that will allow hardware like unmanned aerial vehicles and explosive ordinance disposal robots to communicate and exchange data securely.

The chip is a self-contained encryption engine that is capable of creating a unique, session-based key that the receiving party needs to use to decrypt the message or data. The process meets the NSA’s stringent security standards, making it difficult and resource-intensive for other entities to access the information being relayed.

The device was designed to be as small and lightweight as possible, to make it convenient in the field. It’s said to be around the size of a cracker, and requires just 400 milliwatts of power to operate — around the same amount as a conventional hearing aid.

Crypto Communications

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It’s crucial for operatives in the field — whether they’re human or otherwise — to be able to communicate back to their commanding officers without the information being intercepted. One of the greatest strengths of the Mini Crypto chip is that it’s “losable,” meaning that it can be deployed into the field without any concerns about retrieving the physical hardware to protect data.

“Mini Crypto’s portability and losability make it ideal for things like precision air drops of supplies,” said Heidi Beason, the program manager for the project at the cryptologic and cyber system division of the Air Force’s joint base in San Antonio, Texas, in a press release. “We think this will allow commanders to send combat material to really austere locations for pickup, and protect their exact location, without putting the troops who need the material at risk.”