Scientists Overcoming Quantum Encryption's Distance-Related Hurdles - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Business & Finance

Scientists Overcoming Quantum Encryption's Distance-Related Hurdles

Scientists at NIST, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Albion College revealed last month that they generated and transmitted secret quantum keys over 184.6 kilometers of fiber-optic cable.

Scientists have hoped for years that quantum encryption would become an unbeatable method for transmitting encrypted data. The problem has been making it work over long distances. Now that hurdle is showing signs of falling.

For the most part, the cryptographic battlefield has taken place in mathematics, with senders of data trying to create encryption algorithms too complex for the snoopers to crack. Quantum encryption, however, could shift the struggle to the field of physics and lead to encryption that's more secure than the public key cryptography technology often used today.

Quantum encryption's chief impediment has been its inability to send infor- mation great distances. Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Albion College in Michigan revealed last month that they generated and transmitted secret quantum keys over 115 miles of fiber-optic cable during an experiment last year--the farthest such information has traveled.

Scientists at NIST, Los Alamos, Northwestern University, and IBM have been trying to solve the same problem for decades. The first experimental quantum encryption prototype, created in 1991, was able to send information a mere 32 centimeters.

With quantum encryption, the sender encodes information on an individual quantum particle, such as a photon or electron. The recipient has information about this quantum particle's characteristics, its size, or level of polarization, which lets the recipient interpret the information. Quantum encryption is resistant to eavesdropping by a third party because, according to the laws of physics, a photon can't be intercepted without changing its quantum state. Any attempt to eavesdrop on encrypted data would be detected immediately.

The technology would resist "all future kinds of attacks," says Carl Williams, coordinator of the NIST quantum information program.

NIST's photonic sensors, developed by NIST physicist Sae Woo Nam, were the key to the experiment's success. The distance light can travel over fiber-optic cable depends on the quality of the glass fibers in the core of the cable. NIST's photon sensors were 45% more efficient than commercial ones.

Still, challenges remain for quantum encryption. It isn't compatible with public key encryption systems. It also still needs to stretch across greater distances in order to be practical for most businesses.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
Slideshows
10 Ways to Transition Traditional IT Talent to Cloud Talent
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  11/23/2020
News
What Comes Next for the COVID-19 Computing Consortium
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  11/24/2020
News
Top 10 Data and Analytics Trends for 2021
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  11/13/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Why Chatbots Are So Popular Right Now
In this IT Trend Report, you will learn more about why chatbots are gaining traction within businesses, particularly while a pandemic is impacting the world.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll