This post has been contributed by Martin Jensen of Future Hosting. Martin is a technical writer for Future Hosting, a specialized VPS and dedicated server hosting company. Follow Future Hosting on Twitter at @fhsales, Like them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/futurehosting, and check out all the services they offer on http://www.futurehosting.com.

 

A US laboratory recently revealed that it has been running a network encrypted with quantum technology for several years. Quantum cryptography has the potential to provide perfect encryption.

Traditional cryptography relies on the inherent difficulty of carrying out certain mathematical calculations in a practical amount of time. For example, encryption algorithms like RSA are based on the difficulty of factoring primes. If we take two very large prime numbers and multiply them, there is no quick mathematical way of getting back to the original prime numbers from their product. It can be done, but it typically takes hundreds or thousands of years to do so.

However, cryptography based on difficult math has inherent limitations. Although it’s difficult to decrypt, it’s not impossible, especially as technology advances. There are statistical methods that can reduce the time taken considerably and flaws in the algorithms themselves can be exploited. Additionally, if a third party gets hold of the key by another means, there’s nothing to stop them from sitting in between the sender and receiver, decrypting the message and reading it, before encrypting it with the same key and sending it on, leaving the communicating parties non-the-wiser.

Quantum cryptography is designed to solve this problem and takes advantage of a fundamental property of quantum-scale matter. It can’t be observed without being changed. People encrypting messages with quantum cryptography can be completely sure that their messages aren’t being read because it’s impossible to look at or copy messages without changing them.

The Los Alamos Lab network is built with a hub and spoke architecture. The central hub handles all the key management. Communication between the hub and the nodes is initiated with a quantum encrypted one-time-pad, which contains information about how to encrypt the rest of the communication, which is done in the traditional manner. It’s possible to change the keys every few seconds, so that even in the extremely unlikely event that the key is revealed, it’s only valid for a short time.

The technology isn’t quite ready for deployment on the Internet yet. While the Los Alamos network uses a hub-and-spoke infrastructure, the Internet is a massively interconnected network where packets pass through many different routers and switches. Because there’s no predictable straight line route between any two machines on the Internet, the quantum encrypted packets will be copied and looked at as they travel through routers, being changed in the process, removing the advantage of quantum encryption.

However, there are specific use-cases where perfect encryption is required and a hub and spoke mechanism can be employed. For example, the scientists behind the new developments intend their method to be deployed to encrypt communications on the electric grid.

It’s not all bad news for businesses and consumers who would like to be certain no-one is peeping at their data. Quantum router technology is in development, and although it may be a few years away from widespread use, it would render the hub-and-spoke method obsolete.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Category

Blog

Tags