'Unbreakable' encryption unveiled

Perfect secrecy has come a step closer with the launch of the world's first computer network protected by unbreakable quantum encryption at a scientific conference in Vienna.

The network connects six locations across Vienna and in the nearby town of St Poelten, using 200 km of standard commercial fibre optic cables.

Quantum cryptography is completely different from the kinds of security schemes used on computer networks today.

These are typically based on complex mathematical procedures which are extremely hard for outsiders to crack, but not impossible given sufficient computing resources or time.

But quantum systems use the laws of quantum theory, which have been shown to be inherently unbreakable.

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As Matthew Broderick (as David Lightman) so eloquently put it in Wargames,

"Hey, I don't believe any system is totally secure...."

As Kaboose said, "where there is a will, there is a way..."

so its not purely computationally cracked, but also partially physically too...


::edit::

But in the quantum world, copying anything destroys the original, so the sender and receiver can always tell if they̢۪ve been overheard by examining the error rates in their message. If it rises above a certain limit, the line is not secure.

It should work as long as Eve is careful to keep the error rate below the critical limit.

is it me or does that just sound kinda flimsy??

If data is transferred across a network point then surely it can be duplicated (as that doesn't interfere with the data)? Therefore you just need to control all the network points and you have access to the data. That's not practical for the average person but a government agency might not have the same problem.

NEway, I'm just thinking aloud. I'm probably way off base.

(Dez3rt.Eagle said @ #20)
It'll be broken in a year, I guarantee it. =)

Dude, read above. We've even provided links. I's already been done.

Who cares if it's unbreakable? It sounds very "griefable." Trying to transmit top secret data from one facility to another? Just "sniff" it and bam, you destroyed their communication.

Nothing is unbreakable, no such thing. It will be cracked, maybe not anytime soon but it will, just a fact of life sadly. Not to mention most of the world governments/law enforcement agencies will have "back door" access to it anyway, imagine the chaos if they did release a type of encryption that was completely closed in? cyber-criminals would be nearly impossible to catch, terrorists could use it for communication...very bad. Sure it sounds bad with the gov/law enforcement having back door access, but I'd rather that then the alternative. That is my 2 cents, take with a grain of salt.

Wait a minute...so it causes corruption/damage and alerts the parties of someone trying to break the encryption correct?

Well then I wouldn't be hacking it to try and decrypt said data but rather to corrupt/damage the data/keys over and over and over again.

The headline of this story was misleading. The cryptography was not hacked.

Quantum cryptography wasn't hacked, the hardware on which it was implemented was. That's a world of difference.

This is not your run-of-the-mill encryption that you can break by finding a weakness in the algorithm, a leaked key, or brute force. For the moment and the foreseeable future, if it is even possible to observe an encrypted "quantum" communication without damaging it, it will require very expensive and not-yet-built equipment (and some good understanding of quantum mechanics).

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0806/0806.1778v1.pdf

I bet the hackers would break this within 2 days. There is no perfectly secure data. There will never be.

Perhaps unbreakable in our lifetime, but I would never ever say that anything is totally unbreakable. Many have said that in the past and ate a big ass slice of humble pie.

Its easy to crack if you known the password :

it is 12345, "admin", ***** (5 asterisk) or the same as the login.

Quantum encryption doesn't rely on complexity as it relies on data integrity. An intercepted key or transmission alters the data. So a third party quantum computer sniffing will change the data.

I think of it this way. Computer A is passing a specific Jenga block stack to Computer B. Any sniffing computer will have to remove blocks to "observe" them. What happens to the tower? It collapses. So the receiving computer sees the interception (whether data, or an attempt to establish the encrypting key).

The snooper cannot get the full key, as any attempt to do so creates corrupted data and alerts the parties. If they get an intercepted fragment of the key while trying to establish one, a new key sequence must be generated to replace the damaged one. If the snooper intercepts a portion of the traffic, the would be able to read it only if clear text (and the receiver would know of the interception). If the traffic was encrypted, they have a tiny piece of encrypted data - but still no key. And the receiver still knows that someone is trying to intercept - time to generate a new key, so that an intercepter cannot collect enough data to work on breaking the encryption. Any new packet will be encrypted with a different key.

Frankly, I don't see how this can be broken. Although, quantum computing in this fashion is strictly Point A-B type computing, not as broad as current computing.

(markjensen said @ #2.1)
Frankly, I don't see how this can be broken. Although, quantum computing in this fashion is strictly Point A-B type computing, not as broad as current computing.

Our understanding of science is always rudimentary of course, so for now this method seems unbreakable, but perhaps in the future it won't be. Apart from that though, (when implemented correctly) this only eliminates "man-in-the-middle" attacks, and does nothing to stop all the other vulnerabilities that we have today. So even if this is a victory it is only a very small one for secure communication.

Lastly, I think it's really commendable that you spend this much time giving well thought answers to peoples questions :).

(Shadow Dragon said @ #2.2)
Lastly, I think it's really commendable that you spend this much time giving well thought answers to peoples questions :).
I don't always. :P

I understand how it works from your description and I've also heard about it before at Uni but what is to stop someone intercepting every packet and therefore causing a DOS attack?

(kezzzs said @ #2.4)
I understand how it works from your description and I've also heard about it before at Uni but what is to stop someone intercepting every packet and therefore causing a DOS attack?
Very true. DoS is always a possibility. One might not intercept and decrypt the information, but can still disrupt it to prevent the other from receiving it.

Hacking/Cracking and blocking are two separate items, though.

(kezzzs said @ #2.4)
I understand how it works from your description and I've also heard about it before at Uni but what is to stop someone intercepting every packet and therefore causing a DOS attack?
Maybe they can replicate the message as early as possible and try and send the packets through multiple routes even if some are less efficient. Not great for performance and it doesn't necessarily save you if you have multiple attackers or they sit somewhere on the line before the messages gets duplicated, but maybe it'd work?

Quantum computing and cryptography is a whole different ball of wax.

Anyone able to "observe" the passing of the data will, by necessity of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, also alter that data and will cause a communications failure that is easily detected. Therefore only unobserved data is exchanged properly.

Interesting stuff, indeed!

(markjensen said @ #1.1)
Quantum computing and cryptography is a whole different ball of wax.

Anyone able to "observe" the passing of the data will, by necessity of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, also alter that data and will cause a communications failure that is easily detected. Therefore only unobserved data is exchanged properly.

Interesting stuff, indeed!


So what happens when our ISPs run a virus scan on our incoming emails or when our own virus scanners check the data...

^The encryption is only on a per-link basis. The points between links such as routers and the servers the ISPs use are fair game.

(Roadrunna said @ #1.2)
So what happens when our ISPs run a virus scan on our incoming emails or when our own virus scanners check the data...
When you and your ISP both set up a pair of quantum computers.... I doubt you will be running Windows, so no need for virus scans. :P

(markjensen said @ #1.1)
Quantum computing and cryptography is a whole different ball of wax.

Anyone able to "observe" the passing of the data will, by necessity of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, also alter that data and will cause a communications failure that is easily detected. Therefore only unobserved data is exchanged properly.

Interesting stuff, indeed!

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/06/13/1255208

"Quantum encryption is perfectly secure, in theory. In practice, however, there are loopholes. Now Japanese scientists have designed a quantum eavesdropper that exploits one of these loopholes to listen in to quantum conversations. QC's security arises from the impossibility of making a perfect copy of a quantum object without destroying it — so the sender and receiver can always tell if they've been overheard. But it turns out that an eavesdropper can make imperfect copies and use them to extract information from a quantum message without alerting sender or receiver "