Data security is paramount in today's sensitive business environments. Hackers today can get into networks that store financial data like bank accounts or credit card numbers and make off with millions in stolen property.
Encryption is used on most networks that store this sort of data, but encryption is not unbreakable. A new form of encryption has been introduced at a scientific conference in Vienna. According to BBC News, the new encryption method is called quantum cryptography and it's unbreakable.
A demonstration of the quantum cryptography system was performed on a network connecting six locations around Vienna. The locations were connected using standard fiber optic cable. The quantum cryptography was devised by Charles Bennett of IBM and Gilles Brassard of Montreal University.
The basis for the cryptographic system is described by Brassard, "All quantum security schemes are based on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, on the fact that you cannot measure quantum information without disturbing it."
He continued telling BBC News, "Because of that, one can have a communications channel between two users on which it's impossible to eavesdrop without creating a disturbance. An eavesdropper would create a mark on it. That was the key idea."
The system sends faint beams of light containing single photons fired a million times per second from which a numerical key can be recovered. The advantage of the system is that if anyone eavesdrops on the communication between nodes the key is disturbed and the node shuts down. At the same time the hacked node shuts down the network is routed to another node to keep it running.
Two different methods are available to send the encryption key in the quantum system. One looks at the direction the photons are polarized and the other looks at the precise timing of the arrival of the photons. Any network using quantum cryptography put into use would have to be able to work with both types of encryption methods.
Dr. Hans Huebel from the Vienna University said, " We are constantly in touch with insurance companies and banks, and they say it's nearly better that they lose 10 million euros than if the system is down for two hours, because that might be more damaging for the bank. So that's what we have to prove, that we have a reliable system that delivers quantum keys for several weeks without interruption, and then they might be more interested."
DailyTech first reported on quantum computers for cryptography in August of 2007.