When Joseph Latouf was in high school, a challenge sparked his curiosity. His algebra class was informed that if anyone could come up with a prime number generator, they would win a $100,000 reward. Latouf got fast at work, and after some intense analyzing and deliberating, uncovered a clever method of creating a prime number generator. A professor at a nearby university was called in to prove that his prime number generator worked—and indeed, it did. Sadly, however, there really wasn’t a $100,000 prize.
Latouf said he tucked away the fruits of his labor in his back pocket, hoping that it would someday lead to something of value. After all, he knew that a prime number generator was important, since it holds the keys for encryption.
Fast forward many years later, when Latouf was wrestling with the idea of security and encryption and feeling uneasy about the fact that if he had a prime number generator, others likely do too. And, that meant that there were people out there who can crack encryption.
As more and more breaches and stolen data began to surface in the news, Latouf set out to create a better and more secure way of saving data. That’s when CORA, which stands for Context Order Replacement Algorithm, was born. The data security solution touted as “unbreakable” is currently raising funds on Indiegogo.
Latouf describes encryption as “a big safe that you can open up, put whatever valuables you want inside and then close and lock it.” Essentially, he says, that’s what encryption does to data on a hard drive; it locks it up with prime numbers. Now, if someone physically stole a personal computer or hacked into a server or hard drive, they would need a prime number generator or to use brute force to crack the code and access the data. Cracking encryption is something that is hard to do, but not impossible. Latouf decided that there must be a better way.
With CORA, Latouf says, storing data is more like taking a book, pulling the letters out in a random fashion and storing them in three, five or even 25 different places—with some data on a hard drive, some on OneDrive, some on another cloud, and so on. This way, if someone breaches one location, they might have, say 10,000 letters, but that would only be a small subset of letters and not enough to reconstruct phrases, let alone an entire book.
Latouf says the CORA security solution is “unbreakable” with one caveat: it must be used properly by storing the data in different locations.
With this level of unbreakable encryption, an IT professional would be positioned to better defend their company against potential cyberattacks. In general, encryption helps to protect data. But by taking security a step further with CORA, small subsets of data are stored in various locations, and if the data were to be compromised in a single breach, the encrypted data–even if cracked–would never represent the full set of data and would therefore, lack any real value to a hacker.
In addition to CORA, Latouf is also developing an app to allow people to have total control over their online footprint. In a nutshell, the app will allow users to delete a photo or file permanently, leaving no one with the ability to access that package even after it has been shared. “If I want my picture taken offline, I should be able to shut it down,” Latouf explains. “My next goal, following CORA, will be to also make that possible.”
Renee Morad is a freelance writer and editor based in New Jersey. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Discovery News, Business Insider, Ozy.com, NPR, MainStreet.com, and other outlets. If you have a story you would like profiled, contact her at [email protected]
The IT Innovators series of articles is underwritten by Microsoft, and is editorially independent.