Quantum Cryptography: The ‘Key’ To Perfect Security?

Since the dawn of the computer era with the Apple I, the need for security has been crucial. Although simple encryption was strong enough to fend off some of the first real hackers, the popularization and advancement of technology in our society has made even the strongest means of encryption all but null in comparison.

However, for the last few years scientists have been working on what they believe to be the future of encryption, and a way to ensure encrypted files are completely unhackable no matter what they face. Although some skeptics speculate that this form of cryptography has its flaws like any other, the future is bright with this new means of data security, and the likelihood of a brighter future is all but sealed in exchange. However, to know just how this form of encryption could alter the way we secure our data forever, we must first know exactly what it is, determine whether it truly is unhackable, and back these statements with evidence presented through testing of the actual encryption itself.

What is quantum cryptography?

Quantum cryptography is the science of exploiting quantum mechanical properties to perform cryptographic tasks. One of the most popular forms of quantum cryptography is quantum key distribution, which is where two parties use a shared secret key to encrypt and decrypt messages between them.

The main reason that this form of cryptography is so effective is the fact that it allows the completion of multiple cryptographic tasks that were otherwise proven or conjectured to be impossible using other forms of non-quantum communication. There are multiple different ways that this form of cryptography can be used, including quantum commitment, quantum coin flipping, bounded- and noisy-quantum-storage model, position-based quantum cryptography, device-independent quantum cryptography, and post-quantum cryptography.

However, although many have claimed that these different procedures are utterly unhackable in the past, many of these systems have been proven to be flawed in multiple ways, leaving them completely open to even the weakest hackers out there in a matter of seconds. The main reason for this is the fact that the code can be easily written incorrectly and, in turn, can quite easily lead to a data breach.

In fact, despite this seeming to be a completely unhackable, tried and true solution to the issue of data security, it appears to be far from it at this point in time. However, the question remains: if it were done correctly, would it actually be unhackable?

Is it actually unhackable?

In short, the answer is simply “no”. However, this does not mean that this will be the case indefinitely. In fact, many scientists believe its flaws all come in the form of simple careless human errors in the basic code that creates these cryptographic methods. For instance, on the subject, physicist Renato Renner from the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Zurich stated, “If you build it correctly, no hacker can hack the system. The question is what it means to build it correctly.”

Although we have quite a ways to go, testing continues to occur and, as with all technological advancements, things are certainly looking up for the fans and advocates behind this rather innovative form of data security. In fact, in September of last year, a group of scientists, engineers, and pilots tested quantum cryptography using photon detection in an airplane. These scientists were able to receive encrypted messages through photons from the ground below with ease, making them the first to prove quantum cryptography’s success when used in long distance situations. This test further reveals its ability to be used for things other than point-of-presence technology, as it makes its way towards military applications.

Therefore, although this form of encryption may be currently hackable due to weak keys and mistakes in coding, the likelihood of this form of encryption becoming the norm is extremely high. In turn, the world may be changed forever, and the safety of our most personal information may be an afterthought in the long run.

How can it impact our world?

Although the use of this form of cryptography in the military is already an important factor to keep in mind, this is far from the only way that quantum cryptography can be used. Another massive industry that may be positively affected by this form of data encryption is the job industry. For big companies, the data they receive is not only private, but also highly valuable as well. Because of this, the way this data is secured is extremely important. For instance, if an individual chooses to utilize a system such as FileMaker in the cloud, this completely opens up their company and all of their data to cyber attacks. However, using quantum key distribution, these pieces of data being transferred back and forth can be quickly and meticulously encrypted to ensure their security — no matter what the case scenario is. Because of this particular use, quantum cryptography is an amazing example of workplace cyber security.

Similarly, some scientists believe they can utilize this form of encryption to create networking equipment dedicated to the security of any and all transferred messages throughout entire companies. Although this is a technology that appears to be something we will not successfully achieve until much further in the future, the idea of being able to encrypt messages without doing any work in the process is yet another way that this form of cryptography makes for a highly enticing security future.

Lastly, another way that this form of security may be used in the future is for telemedicine and various other technologies in the healthcare industry. Recently, the use of technology and advancement in healthcare has become an issue of much concern, as multiple individuals have feared that connecting the health of individuals to the cloud could lead to hazards, and even deaths, in the process. From heart monitors leading to the instant death of multiple individuals, all the way to VR attacks on headsets used specifically to rehabilitate stroke victims, quantum cryptography could eliminate these deadly possibilities.

The use of encryption to secure a patient’s information and forms of healthcare is what makes quantum cryptography so enticing to healthcare professionals. By encrypting forms of healthcare which utilize technology such as heart monitors and VR headsets, and by examining the technologies used to create things such as medical images and store personal patient information, quantum cryptography can completely transform the way we look at healthcare as a whole.

In the end, these are only a few examples out of many. The truth is that this form of encryption could very well lead to a brighter future for our country, if built correctly. After all, it takes one big idea to change the world forever, and even the smallest of people can make the biggest of dents.