Quantum Encryption: Some economic and national security implications

August 25, 2010

One of the things I like about Alan Paller the individual and the organization he helps lead SANS is they encourage people to write.  They are great motivators, especially if you are pursuing a security certification.  As part of a my 2003 SANS certification I wrote a piece on Quantum Encryption and Quantum Computing and am glad I SANS forces me to put some thought into that.

I’m especially glad now that we are seeing increasing amounts of news and research announcements on the topics.  A key point I highlighted in the paper is the oft needed reminder that Quantum Encryption and Quantum Computing are two different things.  Both rely on Quantum effects but the impacts of their implementation will be different.  Quantum Encryption will enable encryption keys to be passed securely over a distance.  Quantum Computing will enable many things, but some dramatic security implications are expected.  For example, through implementation of the fast factorization of  integers via “Shor’s Algorithm,”  public key encryption using RSA encryption methods will be broken when Quantum Computing is available.

Now to my point:  I just read a great piece on Quantum Encryption written by Matthew Luce of the Jamestown Foundation.

The piece, titled China’s Secure Communications Quantum Leap, provides a solid review of recent announcements by a team of Chinese researchers from Tsinghua University in Beijing and the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences (a government directed research center).  Papers published by this team announce successful demonstrations of quantum teleportation, a requirement for quantum encryption.

Here is more from Matthew Luce:

Although much of the science behind this technology is still young, quantum technologies have wide-ranging applications for the fields of cryptography, remote sensing and secure satellite communications. In the near future, the results from this experiment will be used to send encrypted messages that cannot be cracked or intercepted, and securely connect networks, even in remote areas, with no wired infrastructure, even incorporating satellites and submarines into the link.

Rather than transporting matter from place to place, quantum teleportation’s most practical applications currently involve using photons for instantaneous, almost totally secure data communication. Using the term “teleportation” to describe this effect can be justified by what Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”: after two particles are linked together through quantum entanglement, any change in the state of one particle immediately alters the other, even from miles away. In effect, the state of the particle at the sender’s end is destroyed and reappears as an exact replica at the receiver’s end, with a negligible chance of undetected third-party interception.

Does that have your interest?  Does that make you mind go on the national security and technology implications?

Check out Jamestown.org for more great writing on that and other topics.