Quantum key to unbreakable cryptography

ANU researchers develop completely secret, unhackable quantum key transmission using laser beams and common optics

Researchers at the Australian National University have developed, and are now commercializing, an unhackable means of transmitting information that is much more secure than existing methods.

The researchers are working on quantum key distribution (QKD), generally known as quantum cryptography, which uses laser beams that are encoded in a way that makes interception physically impossible.

"It's somewhat cheekily titled the ultimate cryptographic system," said ANU physicist and Stanford Sloan Fellow, Vikram Sharma, referring to a presentation on the technology.

Sharma is part of a team that won the 2006 Eureka Prize for Scientific Research for demonstrating an end-to-end working prototype of a QKD system.

The team, which has worked on the project for three years, is looking to commercialise the QKD system through QuintessenceLabs -- a Canberra-based company setup by the ANU researchers -- which has attracted funding from various government agencies and investors.

There are currently two main commercial companies developing Quantum encryption devices; MagiQ in the US, and idQuantique in Switzerland.

"These devices in their early forms are quite expensive, at more than US$100,000. What we would like to do is scale those costs down progressively. We feel with our setup we have a good chance of achieving this as we employ a fair amount of off-the-shelf componentry, as opposed to the other two [designs] where specialised single photon sources and detectors are required" Sharma said.

"So an eavesdropper could intercept these quantum sets that you are sending but they will never be able to reproduce them perfectly. This is in stark contrast to electronic data, 1s and 0s, which you can copy perfectly as many times as you like"

ANU physicist, Vikram Sharma

Sharma said that tried and tested optics and electronics from the telecoms industry are used in his team's QKD, resulting in a considerably cheaper and much more robust system.

While explaining the potential of quantum cryptography, Sharma quoted the novelist Edgar Allen Poe who once said 'it can be roundly asserted that human ingenuity cannot concoct a cipher which human ingenuity cannot resolve'.

This may be true for traditional cryptography which is based on complex mathematics. But quantum cryptography uses the laws of physics to guarantee that no human can resolve its cipher.

"With quantum cryptography, we try and harness some of the fundamental properties that nature can offer us," Sharma said.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Andrew Hendry

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?