Cryptography is the science of combining and reading a message with additional information known only as a key, using an algorithm called a password or a cryptosystem. In order for a cryptosystem to be considered secure, it should be impossible to unlock the message without a key. Quantum encryption, which is also called quantum cryptography, uses the principles of quantum mechanics to both
- encrypt data and transmit it in a way that cannot be hacked
- decrypt messages encrypted with quantum or classical cryptography
What is quantum encryption?
Quantum encryption enables the two parties to communicate with a random common bit sequence which only they can know. This bit sequence is used to encrypt or decrypt messages. An important feature of quantum cryptography is the ability of two communicating parties to detect the presence of a third party trying to capture the key. This situation is related to the principle of quantum physics that a quantum system measuring process causes the system to fail. The third-party who secretly listens to the key has to measure it somehow, which causes a number of abnormalities in the system. Any changes in the state of photon make it impossible to generate a secure key and communication will be stopped.
Quantum cryptography is used only to generate and distribute the key, not to move data. The generated key is then used for encryption and decryption in any encryption algorithm.
How does quantum encryption work?
Qquantum encryption uses a method called quantum key distribution(QDK). The purpose of this system is to send the information transmitted from one point to another without any reading process. QDK uses a series of photons to transmit data from one location to another over fiber optic cables.
- The transmitter sends photons through a polarizer which gives them one of four possible polarizations: vertical, horizontal, 45 degrees right, or 45 degrees left.
- When the photons arrive, the receiver end uses two beam splitters in order to estimate the polarization of each photon. Type of the beam splitter to use for each photon is not known by the receiver so receiver needs to do a randomized estimate.
- After the transmitter sends all the information, the receiver tells the transmitter which beam splitter was used for each of the photons.
- Transmitter compares the information sequence including the type of splitters used and the matching sequence in both ends becomes the key.
If a third party tries to read the sequence, the photon’s state will change and the change is detected in endpoints.
Why is it important?
Quantum computing is getting advanced and will be capable of breaking classical encryption approaches soon: Recently, there have been developments in quantum computing with the investments of tech giants and military technology companies. Quantum computing is a technology that has the potential to solve problems in minutes that take years for classical computers to solve. Hence, while decoding the encryption systems used today can take years even for supercomputers, it can be simple math for quantum computing. Although quantum computing is not ready yet, encryption systems must be ready in advance. For more information about quantum computing, feel free to visit our recent article.
Critical for network security: An increasing data communication rate creates an increasing need for network security. Data security can become one of the top priority issues as more data means greater risk. In particular, one of the primary challenges of military technologies is the maintenance of secure communication. Quantum technology brings a whole new perspective to solve the problem of secure communication. Quantum technology can make it impossible even for quantum computers to decrypt certain messages.
A Gartner research predicts that quantum cryptography will be commercially available by 2022 and it will require security and risk management leaders to plan for post-quantum cryptography in their operations.
What’s the difference between post-quantum encryption and quantum encryption?
Both post-quantum encryption and quantum encryption are terms that aim to minimize or even make it impossible for communication to be hacked by quantum computers. Post-quantum encryption aims to produce algorithms that can not be hacked by quantum computers. Post-quantum encryption is the development of existing security algorithms using mathematical methods and making them resistant to quantum computing. However, it does not guarantee impossibility of decryption, it just reduces the possibility.
Quantum encryption refers to the use of quantum mechanics’ principles to send secure messages. Unlike mathematical encryption, quantum encryption is impossible to hack. The main difference is that post-quantum encryption is a mathematical method, while quantum encryption aims to encrypt using the nature of quantum physics.
Algorithms produced for post-quantum encryption are candidates to provide more secure communication in the short term. Quantum encryption is a more secure approach, however quantum computing needs to become widespread and more mature for quantum encryption.
What are top quantum cryptography companies?
IdQuantique: A Switzerland based company provides quantum secure security solutions for the protection of transmitted data by upgrading existing network encryption products with QDK.
Qrypt: Qrypt is a New York-based startup that has its own cryptographic solution. The company claims that its encryption solution is capable of securing enterprises and private information in the present and in the future.
Single Quantum: The Netherlands based company provides solutions for the detection of photons in the receiver end with a high precision.
Post-Quantum: The company provides solutions for protection against the quantum threat and offers commercial and government solutions. Post-Quantum has solutions like encryption algorithms and cybersecurity solutions.
Crypto Quantique: Crypto Quantique’s technology products, platforms, and services provide end-to-end security throughout IoT networks with quantum driven cybersecurity. The company claims to have quantum driven security on a chip that can generate multiple cryptographic keys that don’t need to be stored and used independently on multiple applications.
CryptoNext Security: France based startup aims to provide cryptographic standards that can make IT infrastructures secure against quantum computers. Recently, KETS Quantum and Cryptonext Security announce partnership to build quantum-safe solutions.
Quantum Resistant Ledger: QRL is a cryptocurrency ledger which is designed from the outset to be resistant to both classical and quantum computing attack.
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