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New Method Developed to Quickly Transmit Quantum Encryption Keys

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 07:16AM

Undoubtedly encryption is a very important tool for securing communications, but modern encryption methods can all be beaten with clever tricks or brute force. In the future though, quantum encryption could be used to protect sensitive information in such a way that it cannot be compromised without the intended user's knowledge. Central to this kind of security is quantum key distribution, which has been limited to just hundreds of rather slow data rates, but researchers at the University of Cambridge have found a way to speed it up by up to six orders of magnitude.

Quantum encryption protects data because the key to decrypt it is transmitted using quantum mechanical particles, such as photons. When these photons are observed, to determine what the key is, their quantum mechanical properties change, meaning the key is altered and this can be detected. While theoretically quantum encryption cannot be broken, by attacking the real hardware components involved, it could potentially be compromised, so a protocol called measurement-device-independent quantum key distribution (MDI-QKD) was developed. While this has been demonstrated successfully, it has been limited to operating at just a few hundred bits per second, or less, because of how hard it is to create indistinguishable particles from the different lasers involved. The Cambridge researchers have addressed this problem by developed pulsed laser seeding for injecting photons from one laser beam into another. This method reduces the time jitter of the pulses, allowing them to be significantly shorter.

Using pulsed laser seeding, a data rate of up to one megabit per second is possible, which represents a one hundred to one million improvement factor. This new protocol could be leading us to the practical implementation of quantum cryptography.

Source: University of Cambridge

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