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Science & Physics

Quantum leap or lurch?

Scientific American claims that advances in commercially available quantum encryption might obsolete the existing factorization-based solutions: “The National Security Agency or one of the Federal Reserve banks can now buy a quantum-cryptographic system from two small companies – and more products are on the way. This new method of encryption represents the first major commercial implementation for what has become known as quantum information science, which blends quantum mechanics and information theory. The ultimate technology to emerge from the field may be a quantum computer so powerful that the only way to protect against its prodigious code-breaking capability may be to deploy quantum-cryptographic techniques.”

OK, so for now, we have quantum encryption devices to put data & information [please note: they’re not the same thing] beyond the reach of either informed or brute-force decryption mechanisms.

And this all sounds excellent. At last, a secure and reliable means of passing your important stuff from one location to another.

The principle is far simpler to describe than explain [yes, sounds silly, but think about it]. As I understand the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle, you can know where something is and where something is going, but you can’t know both at the same time .. or something like that.

This something being a particle — or in the case of quantum encryption, photons of light. So the idea is, the moment you scratch a quantum-encrypted line, you’ve already fucked up the data stream and its integrity of unrecoverable.

Anyway, mechanical minutia aside, how long will this lead last? I mean, if we have quantum doohickies to encrypt stuff, how long before we have quantum computers in the hands of the crackers to decrypt them? The balance of power thus redressed.

How long away quantum computers really are depends on who you speak to. But they’ll all tell you one thing with unwavering certainty: quantum computers will one day be a reality…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

2 replies on “Quantum leap or lurch?”

“how long before we have quantum computers in the hands of the crackers to decrypt them?”

That is the beauty of quantum cryptography. If someone tries to tap into the data stream, the stream is altered, and neither the intruder, nor the receiver will get any meaningful data. So it is of no use, with or without a quantum computer!

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