Will Aussie teleportation news improve cryptography?

Earlier this week researchers at the Australian National University said they had successfully teleported a laser beam, a development which the researchers said in press reports would have deep implications for computing and cryptography. But not so fast, say some scientists and security experts in the United States.

The reports about the "breakthrough," carried by the BBC and CNN.com, among others, said that a team led by researcher Ping Koy Lam had been able to simultaneously destroy a beam of photons and reassemble it in another place. The team claimed that its research would lead to perfect encryption, as well as faster computers, according to the reports.

Despite the play the story has received in the international media, the research is "not a very important announcement," according to Alexei Trifonov, vice president of experimental science at Magiq Technologies Inc., a company which is working on quantum information processing tools in New York and Somerville, Massachusetts.

The "breakthrough" is not so exciting because the principle at work has been used in the scientific community for at least five years, Trifonov said.

"This is just the next step in the road," he said.

No matter how big a step it is, though, the road does lead to perfect encryption thanks to quantum computing, according to both Trifonov and others.

Quantum encryption will offer unbreakable codes thanks to the laws of physics, particularly the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, said Burt Kalinski, chief scientist at RSA Security Inc., located in Bedford, Massachusetts. That principle, in essence, holds that you can't observe a particle, in this case a photon, without altering it in some way. Because the particles being used in a quantum encryption scheme would be changed by an observer or eavesdropper attempting to view them, the encryption would be perfect, Kalinski said.

Furthermore, Trifonov said, attempting to crack a quantum encryption scheme would change the photons so much as to make them useless to the eavesdropper.

"There is no way to (try to crack the scheme) without introducing error," he said.

Magiq has a quantum encryption product in development now that will be released by the end of the year, he added.

Quantum physics may also be used to create quantum computers, systems that would easily be able to break current encryption systems which are based on large computational problems that would be overcome by the speed of such computers, said RSA's Kalinski. But those sorts of systems are a ways off, he said.

"No one knows how to build (them) on a scale to make it practical," he said, comparing the current state of quantum computing to that of processor design thirty years ago.

Nonetheless, the Australian work "shows that there are applications for the general area of quantum information processing," said Andy Hammond, the vice president of marketing at Magiq. But the Australian announcement won't have an immediate impact, he said.

The research "certainly may yield a new generation of quantum cryptography (at some point)...but we're not stopping our guys down in the lab," he said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sam Costello

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?