Could quantum physics hold the (secret) key to defeating hackers?
Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is a currently available technology for the secure distribution of secret keys, used for data encryption. Quantum physics dictates that at the scale of individual particles (for example, photons - particles of light), their quantum properties cannot be measured without being unavoidably and irrevocably disturbed from their original state. This means that no interceptor (or “hacker”) can eavesdrop on quantum secured transmissions, or attempt to copy them, without their presence becoming known to the communicating parties. This disturbance is due to a principle known as quantum uncertainty and it is a fundamental feature of quantum physics. It underpins all current work in the field of quantum communications.
The two communicating parties use transmitted information to distil random data (or “keys”) that only they know. QKD systems generate such shared secret keys, which can then be used for data encryption and other applications. The key generation, distribution and replenishment is underpinned by quantum uncertainty, thus offering to any two communicating parties security based on the laws of quantum physics.
Although proven to work, currently QKD systems are bulky, costly to manufacture and have some limitations. We are working towards overcoming these, enabling widespread use and adoption.