The Internet will eventually be secured from hackers by a technology called quantum photonics, say researchers.
Single light particles will ultimately be used to exchange information in secure systems, they think. The technique is part of quantum computing. And now that a limitation has been overcome, the scientists at the University of Sydney say that the ultra-secure system is one step closer to realization.
It’s been guessed at that photonics will be the future of security, however figuring out how to create a single photon has been holding back the forward movement in the research, the team says in a news release on the university’s website. They now think they’ve figured out how to do it.
Generating “indistinguishable single photons on-demand,” has been, thus far, a “fundamental challenge,” says Dr Chunle Xiong, from the university’s School of Physics in the release.
In fact, scientists have been on the track for years. Stanford University wrote about it in 2000, when it suggested that messages sent by a single photon would make it “easier to detect intruders.”
"If you have only one photon per pulse, you would immediately know that an eavesdropper had penetrated the system because the receiver at the opposite end could tell that the data had been disturbed," said Stanford professor W. E. Moerner then.
Moener and his associates’ solution provided single photons 86% of the time then—not enough for total security. The odds aren’t high enough.
The problem has been that the single particles of light, called photons, are generated in twos. The scientists need them singly.
“Implementing optical quantum technologies has now come down to one fundamental challenge: having indistinguishable single photons on-demand,” says Xiong.
The Australian team think they're closer to obtaining the single photon all of the time.
“This research has demonstrated that the odds of being able to generate a single photon can be doubled by using a relatively simple technique. And this technique can be scaled up to ultimately generate single photons with 100% probability,” Xiong says.
The scientists are multiplexing the photons using fiber optics and off-the-shelf components, they say in their paper in Nature Communications.
“This scheme will ultimately provide a solution for photon sources required for optical quantum computing and simulation,” they say.
Single-photon security is an element of quantum computing. I’ve written about that largely theoretical computer before, including writing of recent strides in its development.
Future quantum computers promise to allow ultra-fast interrogation of databases—on the order of something never seen before.
That potential rapid ingestion of data is a double-edged sword, though. Not only will we be able to work calculations faster, but conceivably existing encryption will be broken faster. What is now considered brute force may seem more like a gentle prod with a pocket calculator.
Indeed, the federal government is so worried about that scenario that the NSA plans to transition to quantum-resistant algorithms soon.
If a quantum-based security system, such as the quantum photonics one, being explored by many, could replace traditional encryption, then the security-Armageddon problem of cracked encryption becomes moot. Security apocalypse thwarted.
This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?