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Researchers Fix Quantum Encryption to Foil Hackers

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quantum encryption

Can quantum encryption offer the solution to the ultimate, foolproof way to block hackers? According to a research team at the University of Toronto, quantum cryptography is the single solution that now has the capability of tripping up even the most sophisticated hackers.

The basic theory with quantum cryptography is that any attempts to hack into encoded communications will immediately alert legitimate users to those hacking attempts.

The encryption key in quantum cryptography isn’t some super-secret text or numerical password, it actually uses light signals and photo detectors. Unfortunately, in previous versions of the quantum key distribution (QKD) method, hackers could hack commercial QKD systems by “subverting” the photon detectors and manipulating what the recipient of the communications ultimately sees.

However, Professor Hoi Kwong Lo and the University of Toronto team developed a fool-proof system to ensure that QKD communications are in fact authentic and from the original sender.

Looking for “Hacking” Attempts in Every Transmission

The way the improved QKD system works is that the sender and the recipient do not trust any incoming communications until the incoming data is compared to the data from the recipients own system. This works because when quantum hackers attempt to manipulate the photons that transmit quantum data, they also inevitably introduce subtle changes in the data steam.

By analyzing all incoming data and determining whether or not it is trustworthy by comparing it to the recipients own data, the communications can pass through untrusted third-party relays and still detect whether or not the signals are being intercepted or manipulated.

In a press release from the University of Toronto, Professor Lo explains:

“A surprising feature is that Charlie’s [the recipients] detectors can be arbitrarily flawed without compromising security. This is because, provided that Alice and Bob’s [senders] signal preparation processes are correct, they can verify whether Charlie or Eve [recipient] is trustworthy through correlations in their own data following any interaction with Charlie/Eve.”

Professor Lo and his team have already developed and tested a proof of concept, and are now actively developing a prototype device that may prove to be the ultimate in quantum cryptography, solving the “Achilles’ heel” that quantum cryptography has always suffered from – that is, the side-channel attacks on photon detectors.

The team expects to have the first prototype ready in five years.

References & Image Credits:
(1) PR Newswire
(2) Scientific American

Originally published on

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