Encryption is groovy: SF tech company CloudFlare uses lava lamps in an unusual way

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Facebook's latest hack has many asking if there are better ways to protect information. It may be unconventional, but Cloudflare, a San Francisco based tech company, is using an old-school novelty item to beat modern cyber attackers.

One hundred brightly colored lava lamps sit in the lobby of Cloudflare. It's a far-out site that does more than set a vibe. The 60s favorite is helping encrypt the internet.

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Cloudflare bills itself as a frontline barrier to websites people visit every day, keeping them secure.

Cyber security has become a hot button issue lately, especially in light of the massive Facebook hack that has compromised the information of millions.

"If you can't trust them, then you actually ruin the point of Facebook," CNET Executive Editor Ian Sherr, said. "At which point then, why are we all using Facebook?"

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Could Facebook use the 1963 invention to help in the future? Nick Sullivan, Cloudflare's head of cryptography, said it's possible.

"Lava lamps, they're so cool right? But it's hard to really connect them to internet security," Sullivan said. "One of the major pieces to internet security is internet encryption."

Most websites have a little lock indicating that it's encrypted, meaning the data is protected.

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"How the lava lamps play into this is that to do encryption you need to be able to derive a key," Sullivan explained.

The keys need to be unpredictable, like the colorful globs of a lava lamp. Cloudflare uses a camera to record the randomness of the lava and turns it into their keys.

"It helps protect people and very large sites from being attacked," Sullivan said.

The lava lamps prove to be effective while looking cool at the same time.

"Yeah, the lava lamps are a nice addition to our lobby," Sullivan said.
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