Internet security can be a sensitive subject with any business. Whilst the Heartbleed issue in OpenSSL has exposed as serious flaw in one of the most widely used encryption algorithms, high profile hacks of sites such as eBay and Forbes.com have shown that even the most popular and secured websites aren’t immune to attack. Quantum encryption is being dubbed as one way to secure the Internet for future generations because quantum machines are no longer a science fiction fantasy, but rather are a reality that could see mass uptake within the next decade. Whether the use of quantum encryption on the Internet will completely remove the potential for your data to be intercepted is another case with which there are many arguments for and against, but the one thing that many agree on is that quantum encryption can provide a much more secure system that anything that is available today.
How would quantum data transmission work?
Two data flows are established for the transmission of data. One channel carries the content itself, whilst the second channel carries the encryption keys for the data. Security is achieved by sending the encryption key separately to the main content, though the key is required to decrypt the information once it has reached its intended destination.
It was originally thought that the quantum internet could dramatically slow down data transfer times, but this would only happen if the encryption keys were to be transferred alongside the content. By establishing a second channel for encryption keys only, data transfer times won’t be impeded.
What prevents information transferred using quantum encryption from being intercepted?
In short, it’s the laws of physics that prevent information that is transmitted in a quantum state from being intercepted.
The laws of physics define that the state of a quantum object can’t be read without the very nature of the object being changed. This means that any attempt to read data as it is being transmitted will be made quite obvious because the information will effectively self-destruct in the event of a hack. So if a hacker does try to intercept information, the end-user will simply receive a mess that has self-destructed on contact with the hacker, rather than the intended intelligible information.
It has been discussed that the only real way in which information transmitted in a quantum state could be compromised is where substandard or poorly protected network equipment is being used. However, with this thought in mind, it should be a good motivator for hardware manufacturers to perfect their hardware and to play their part in improving Internet security.
Whilst quantum computing and the quantum internet could take at least a decade to see wider adoption, moves by the likes of Nasa and Google to invest in this technology mean that new advances are being achieved on a regular basis. As more businesses realise the true security benefits that a quantum setup could have to offer, we are likely to see the development of quantum-based standards that could allow for mainstream adoption and development of related hardware and software.