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Super-secure quantum-based data encryption for everyone

By

September 5, 2014

The new device incorporates quantum photon polarization to generate random numbers and cre...

The new device incorporates quantum photon polarization to generate random numbers and create cryptographic keys.

With a new device set to make unbreakable, quantum-based cryptographic security available for everyone for the very first time, ordinary people will be able to use cryptographic systems that – until recently – only existed as experiments in the most advanced physics laboratories.

Using technology developed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and incorporating the quantum mechanics of random photon polarization, the new device generates random numbers and creates cryptographic keys so fast and so securely that the technology is said to revolutionize high-speed cryptography and offer a completely new commercial platform for real-time encryption at high data rates.

This claimed breakthrough is made possible by taking advantage of the various spin states of photons. In line with quantum wave theory, a photon exists in all spin states at once. However, if a photon is passed through a polarizing filter that rejects given spin states, the photon can be made to exhibit just one of four possible states of spin – vertical, horizontal, left, or right.

In this way, random filters may be applied to photons, which in turn, represent ones or zeroes of binary data, dependent on the state of spin selected and the binary notation attributed to it.

However, in accordance with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, once the photon is polarized we can not then accurately measure it again, unless we apply a filter to it at the end of its journey just like the one it went through at the start to measure its spin state. This means that – provided you know the filter sequence required to decode the incoming photon stream – only the receiver can then read off the encoded data.

More importantly, anyone attempting to intercept the resulting data stream cannot eavesdrop on the transmission because any attempted observation of a quantum system also alters it, and the quantum state changes resulting from attempted unauthorized reading would be immediately detected.

LANL has partnered with Whitewood Encryption Systems to market this device which, when released, may well effectively render any other conventional random number generation system system obsolete. Current systems based on mathematical formulas that can be broken by a computer with sufficient speed and power will not be able to compete with a system that is built on a truly random system that cannot be second-guessed.

"Quantum systems represent the best hope for truly secure data encryption because they store or transmit information in ways that are unbreakable by conventional cryptographic methods," said Duncan McBranch, Chief Technology Officer at LANL. "This licensing agreement with Whitewood Encryption Systems, Inc. is historic in that it takes our groundbreaking technical work that was developed over two decades into commercial encryption applications."

Purported to be simple and small enough to be made into a USB key drive or similarly-sized unit, the LANL device is also claimed to be exceptionally inexpensive to manufacture, meaning that quantum-based random photon polarization encryption could be made available to anyone. Personal data transmission security would then become cheap, pervasive, and ubiquitous.

But more than this, if this device is successfully brought to market and implemented on a worldwide scale, quantum key distribution technology could one day guarantee truly secure commerce, banking, communications, and data transfer on an unprecedented scale.

Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory

About the Author
Colin Jeffrey Colin discovered technology at an early age, pulling apart clocks, radios, and the family TV. Despite his father's remonstrations that he never put anything back together, Colin went on to become an electronics engineer. Later he decided to get a degree in anthropology, and used that to do all manner of interesting things masquerading as work. Even later he took up sculpting, moved to the coast, and never learned to surf.   All articles by Colin Jeffrey
15 Comments

If this device really exists, it will soon be illegal. The excuse will be national security.

Eddie
5th September, 2014 @ 05:23 am PDT

This needs to be built in to all new computers as from yesterday.

One wonders if this device can be built in to the communication linkage between the keyboard and the computer core(s) if that could defeat any key logger malware that has got past the computer system's firewall and antivirus set up. As it is, every time I go on line to check my bank account I am concerned that someone somewhere will be noting down my security information and the next time I log on I will find that I have had my account emptied, despite all the precautions I have taken.

Mel Tisdale
5th September, 2014 @ 06:58 am PDT

Eddie is an optimist. It won't be made illegal; that just invites people to use black market devices. Instead, NSA will infiltrate manufactures and compromise the devices at the root.

Nonetheless, we'll find a way to get clean devices. We'll have to work at it.

piperTom
5th September, 2014 @ 07:58 am PDT

This is not quantum cryptography but a true random number generator.

A quantum cryptography device can detect when a secured line is tempered with, this is not what this technology is about.

There are many ways to generate truly random numbers that don't rely on a pseudo-random algorithms with a seed number. While this is a nice new approach, the article completely misrepresents this technology by conflating it with quantum cryptography.

A message encrypted with a true random number is still vulnerable to brute force attacks (although this is a minute risk if the key is sufficiently long).

quax
5th September, 2014 @ 08:24 am PDT

All very well until the key is lost - or if someone wants your data, stolen.

All the clever cryptography in the world will not overcome good old-fashioned larceny.

Catweazle
5th September, 2014 @ 08:41 am PDT

AsI understand it, it is possible to intercept and decode a message, but it impossible to do this without being detected. Any decode attempt spoils the key.

Of course, any trial and error attempt will also spoil the key, so decoding is not exactly trivial. You only get one shot.

The intended user has the same restriction - one shot at decoding. Better not make a mistake!

Ken Brody
5th September, 2014 @ 08:47 am PDT

I will be glad when a smart computer takes control totally away from the stupidity of humans.

Cyndysub
5th September, 2014 @ 10:50 am PDT

Can we install in PCs, smartphones etc

Mass produce

Stephen N Russell
5th September, 2014 @ 11:37 am PDT

I doubt that they'll make the device illegal; they'll just require a backdoor be installed in it. That allows us the illusion of safety while preserving the ability to spy on us. MUCH better than making it illegal, because of that illusion of safety. (Yes, I'm getting cynical in my old age.)

John Whiting
5th September, 2014 @ 12:41 pm PDT

First, "random" is an epistemological word meaning "of unknown origin". It is often used as if it were metaphysical, meaning "of unknowable origin". Every unknown can be known, nothing is unknowable. It follows every code can be broken, and this encoding method will be cracked, someday.

That said, when this becomes available, I would use it to keep my bitcoin safe. That is a problem now. I have been waiting for a secure system that is not complex before I used bitcoin.

Don Duncan
5th September, 2014 @ 12:49 pm PDT

This basic method of quantum encryption was cracked 4 years ago:

http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100829/full/news.2010.436.html

The details might not be identical but the fundamentals are.

Anne Ominous
5th September, 2014 @ 01:16 pm PDT

This just seems to be a truly random number generator. Wouldn't a device based on radioactive decay be absolutely equivalent and a whole lot cheaper?

Or does this in some way solve the key distribution problem to provide a truly secure, spoof proof channel for the purpose? If that's the case we can finally move on to a private future.

DonGateley
5th September, 2014 @ 02:10 pm PDT

ok so I want to use it to send my sister a secure message so I send her an email (unsecured) saying that you have to type in something (lets say type SECRET FROM BROTHER) on her end to read my secure email that I'm sending next, and a link to download the software from the Manufacturers site for the security encryption software. Nasty man/woman/spy/government/company meanwhile reads my unsecured email and now knows what to type to read myfuture secure email. Do I have a carrier pigeon in my loft to send her the secure reading key? oh and a pigeon for each person that I want to be secretive with? I totally agree that to be safe on the inter/dark net that one either needs to live your life like an open book or don cloak and dagger and be at the mercy of the guaranteed upgrade to buy next month. Maybe we should all keep pigeons?

RichDragon
5th September, 2014 @ 02:37 pm PDT

Anything portrayed as "smart" is compromised with gov's ability to control it. Smart meters allow reading and turning on and off from company offices. And, there's a hefty fine and monthly charge if you refuse installation. Some "smart" phones will be fitted with "kill switches", which of course will only be used in the owners best interest. I'll opt for the unbreakable flip phones with long range walkie talkies for bach up, and a hefty solar generator. But effective encryption devices should find their way to silk road replacements. I'd like to see a way to booby trap messages when tampered with.

Jaesun_1
5th September, 2014 @ 03:47 pm PDT

This looks to be a fine product, but secure transmission of personal data won't pervasive and ubiquitous. Right now, without this product, people could use Enigmail, etc for more secure transmission of information. No corporate or individual entity with whom I correspond is willing to bother. Availability of security for communication won't result in ubiquitous security of communication, because people won't make the effort.

John Banister
6th September, 2014 @ 03:40 pm PDT
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