Unhackable “Quantum Alphabet” encryption ushers in new era in cybersecurity

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Noone likes hackers, so everyone is trying to find ways to create the ultimate unhackable system, and this breakthrough in quantum mechanics could be one of the most promising.

 

In the wake of countless data breaches there has been a dramatic rise in the number of organisations trying to create “unhackable systems,” whether it’s using so called One Time programs and unhackable code, self-configuring and reconfiguring computer systems like the Morpehus Computer and the “Quantum Machine“, or new forms of quantum crypto and quantum safe blockchains. Now though scientists in Austria and the UK have developed a new quantum encryption technique that they say could protect systems from being hacked, and let’s face it that’s a grand claim. A very grand claim, although that said given the weirdness of quantum encryption and quantum mechanics it’s one they might be able to live up to, for a while at least.

 

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The researchers, including those from Heriot-Watt University in the UK, focussed on a complex quantum property known as quantum entanglement, which will play a increasingly vital role in helping us secure our data in the future, and that’s also the bedrock that underpins tomorrows ultra-powerful quantum computers which will run hundreds of millions of times faster than today’s classical computers.

Published in the journal Nature Physics, the teams research reveals a “more advanced and noise-robust way to measure the entanglement of high-dimensional quantum systems.”

Entangled particles of light behave in an identical manner to one another  irrespective of how far apart they are, and as a result measurements made on a pair of entangled light particles would always result in correlated outcomes, even if they were physically on different planets.

 

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The results of these measurements represent different “quantum levels,” which can be used to create what the team call a “quantum alphabet” that can be used to encode information. As such, these entangled states can be used to generate “shared strings of random information across large distances,” which makes them an idea ally in the fight to create better data encryption systems. Furthermore any attempts to hack this communication would destroy the sensitive entanglement between the two particles and reveal an attackers presence.

“The most surprising thing about our method is that it requires only two measurements to work, irrespective of how large or complex the entangled state may be,” said Professor Mehul Malik from Heriot-Watt’s School of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

Applying their newly developed technique to photons entangled in their spatial structure the group, led by scientists at the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) in Austria, who also recently held the world’s first ever quantum video call with a group in China, was able to conclude the structure of entanglement can be unveiled and proven to be truly high-dimensional.

 

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They also achieved a world record for the highest unconditional dimensionality of entanglement in an experiment of this kind, a staggering nine dimensions. Now the group is currently looking into a more direct use of this technique in actual quantum cryptography protocols, and expect their technique to be widely applied in other quantum systems such as atoms, like the vast quantum computing atom clouds that were created recently, and superconducting circuits.

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