High-speed quantum encryption ‘could secure the internet’

High-speed quantum encryption ‘could secure the internet’ [Image: gintas77 via iStock]

A team of researchers have announced that they are now wielding the properties that drive quantum computers to create theoretically hack-proof forms of quantum data encryption.

These scientists, from Duke University, Ohio State University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have developed a new system that could help to fight against the quantum computers that could soon give hackers access to machines powerful enough to crack the toughest internet security codes.

Their system is capable of creating and distributing encryption codes at megabit-per-second rates, which is five to ten times faster than current methods and on par with current internet speeds when running several systems in parallel.

According to the scientists, the new technique is secure from common attacks, despite equipment flaws that could open up leaks.

Daniel Gauthier, professor of physics at the Ohio State University, said: “We are now likely to have a functioning quantum computer that might be able to start breaking the existing cryptographic codes in the near future. We really need to be thinking hard now of different techniques that we could use for trying to secure the internet.”

His team explained that to hackers, bank transactions, medical records and other information looks like “gibberish” due to ciphers known as encryption keys. Sensitive information sent over the internet is first scrambled using one of these keys, and then unscrambled by the receiver using the same key.

For this system to work, both parties must have access to the same key, which has to be kept secret. Quantum key distribution (QKD) takes advantage of one of the fundamental properties of quantum mechanics – that measuring tiny pieces of matter like electrons or photons automatically changes their properties – to exchange keys in a way that immediately alerts both parties to the existence of a security breach.