The team of Shaina Krumme (University of Kansas), Nihar Mauskar (UCSD), and Ajay Ramesh (Berkeley) successfully participated in the 2017 HackMIT, the annual MIT hackathon. Their project -SeQR Scanner and Generator- won runner-up for the prize sponsored by Google (Best Use of Firebase). Only approximately 9% of all participants won prizes at this event where most participants came from top-ranked universities. Over a 24-hour period from September 16 to 17, 2017 1,000 students from around the world came to MIT to dream up a software or hardware project and “hack” it together. Students worked in groups of one to four people.
The inspiration for their project arose from the security concerns arising from the events surrounding Equifax. The team took that fear and distrust and decided to make something to secure and protect data so that only those who should have access to it actually do.
Their product encrypts QR codes so that, they can only be seen by authorized viewers.
Their SeQR Scanner and Generator was built using cloud functions, Firebase as the back-end and React Native as the front-end. The encryption algorithm was RSA and the QR scanning was open-source code. The team had to overcome several challenges, e.g., writing the back-end cloud functions and making React Native compile and run on their computers. The team was proud to introduce encryption and security into this previously untapped market. Nobody to their knowledge had tried to encrypt QR codes before; changing the way we look at QR codes.
Participation in 2017 HackMIT enabled the team to learn about and gain an appreciation for Firebase and React Native. Getting both of these technologies off the ground and making them work together, was certainly worthy of a project in and of itself adding cryptography into the mix further enhanced the learning experience.
There may be potential for product based on SeQR Scanner and Generator. Particularly for QR codes used for labelling boxes in a warehouse, such a technology could be useful to prevent unauthorized access to inventory information.