Yesterday’s NSA codebreaking revelations have left many (rightfully) concerned about the security of any type of encryption service. With the agencie ability to waltz in through prearranged back doors, even data that was considered secure from PRISM-like access is now in question. Enter a research team from Toshiba and their revolutionary breakthrough in quantum cryptography.
Quantum cryptography is widely considered to be the last truly unbreakable form of encryption (we’ll come back to this), as it uses actual the properties of light rather than an algorithm. Think of it like the difference between a physical padlock and a combination lock. The general properties of light and its movements is what makes this form of encryption so secure. There’s a bit of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle going on here, as any attempt to monitor or tap into a quantum signal instantly changes the nature of the signal and is detected as an intrusion by the original source. Unfortunately until now, this laser-based process only worked over short distances and could only be used to connect two computers at a time. That is second problem is what the Toshiba engineers have solved.
The new breakthrough, published in Nature, shows a way of connecting as many as 64 computers. They describe this setup as a “quantum access network.” This breakthrough is made possible by way of an improved photon detector that can handle 1 billion photons per second. This allows for the reception of streams from more than one computer simultaneously. By allowing for quantum encryption to enter into the more common hub-and-spoke model, the Toshiba engineers have opened the way for more sophisticated and consumer-level quantum-powered networks in the future.
But as promised, let’s get back to the “unbreakableness” of quantum encryption. True, any encurson into the light stream is immediately detected, but this only secures the transmission. The end points of the sender and receiver are still just as vulnerable to back-end attacks and hacking as ever. And let’s not forget the weakest link of all: humans. With 50+% of people reusing their same weak passwords for everything, an un-hackable transmission does little good to secure the information. Not until the human element is solved will our data be secure.
LuckyRobot is brought to you by Frequency Group