An approach for the secure transmission of encrypted messages using chaos and noise is presented in this paper. The method is based on the synchronization of certain types of chaotic oscillators in response to a common noise input. This allows two distant oscillators to generate identical output which can be used as a key for encryption and decryption of a message signal. The noiselike synchronizing input-which contains no message information-is communicated to identical oscillators in the transmitter and the receiver over a public channel. The encrypted message is also sent over a public channel, while the key is never transmitted at all. The chaotic nature of the oscillators which generate the key and the randomness of the signal driving the process combine to make the recovery of the key by an eavesdropper extremely difficult. We evaluate system performance with respect to security and robustness and show that a robust and secure system can be obtained. (c) 1998 American Institute of Physics.