Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Ultimate privacy in communication could be quantum cryptography

In the current technologically advanced world, the need for secure and efficient communication is of paramount importance. Most of the interactions between systems, wired or wireless, is secured to different levels using cryptology. Cryptography is the science of protecting the information that is being transferred by transforming it into a secured format that only the sender and the receiver can understand and decipher. A combination of cryptography algorithms and accompanying infrastructure is used to implement a specific information security service or encryption. Hackers pose a severe threat; they can access encrypted information and can potentially decipher it.

As quantum computers are evolving, quantum cryptography proves to be a promising technology to protect the communication from eavesdropping. The technology, Device-independent quantum key distribution, provides security even when the equipment used to communicate over the quantum channel cannot be trusted. A key obstacle in the quantum implementation is the global detection efficiency; the probability that the signals sent over the quantum channel are successfully received must be above a certain threshold.

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Researchers led by Professor Nicolas Sangouard from the University of Basel and Professor Renato Renner from ETH Zurich have succeeded in laying the theoretical foundations for a communication protocol that offers ultimate privacy protection. This method also relaxes the global detection efficiency significantly while maintaining device-independent security. They have applied for a patent, and their results are published in journal Physical Review Letters.

While there are already theoretical proposals for protocols to communicate with black boxes or un-trusted systems, an experimental demonstration of device-independent quantum key distribution is challenging. The devices have to be highly efficient in detecting the crypto key; if too many quantum information remains undetected, it is impossible to know if a third party intercepted the message. 

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The new protocol the researchers came up with adds artificial noise to the actual information about the crypto key. Even if many units remain undetected, a hacker or a third party receives very little information about the crypto key that the information and the algorithm remain secured. This way, the requirement for global detection efficiency can be lowered. 

According to Professor Sangouard, their work represents a significant step towards the next milestone in communication security. 

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