Quantum Cryptography Meaning. FutureUniverse Presents A Practical And In-Depth Understanding.
The use of encryption is a common technique for protecting critical information in today’s world of ever-increasing security threats and breaches. The process of encrypting a plaintext message such that it can only be accessed by authorized parties is known as encryption in cryptography.
During this process, encrypted information is created, also referred to as ciphertext. What is the exact process by which this is accomplished? An algorithm (or cipher) is used to transform the plaintext message into something that cannot be read by anyone but those holding the key, which is referred to as the key. A fiber optic cable is an example of a medium that transmits encrypted information.
Hackers can access the sensitive information carried by the fiber, but encryption prevents them from deciphering the message without the key. With today’s state-of-the-art secure communications, in-flight data is protected using highly secure algorithms, such as Ciena’s WaveLogic Encryption. The computational power of today’s computers makes it very difficult to crack many cryptographic algorithms used today, such as the popular Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Modern cryptography uses such large keys that, in theory, breaking AES-256 would require fifty supercomputers capable of checking a billion billion AES keys per second.
As a result of the large size of keys used in modern cryptography, breaking the AES-256 standard would require fifty supercomputers capable of checking billion billion AES keys per second. This means that there is currently no immediate problem, however, what will happen when quantum computers replace current computers? Quantum computers may be able to crack keys that would require a trillion years for conventional computers to crack in a much shorter period of time.
Here is where quantum physics and cryptography meet. The area of Quantum Cryptography focuses on the introduction of new technologies that will provide greater resistance to the computing power of quantum computers. In quantum cryptography, the strength lies in the unpredictable nature of photons, which are the smallest particles in the universe. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle defines the foundation of quantum physics, which states that observing these particles changes their behavior in any way.
As a result of these new quantum cryptography technologies, maximum security will be achieved by combining quantum physics with advanced mathematics. There are several elements of quantum cryptography that are being explored to ensure secure communication, including quantum key distribution (QKD). QKD produces and distributes a key using photons rather than transmitting data. Using this key, you will be able to encrypt (and decrypt) a message, which can then be sent over a standard communication channel using an encryption algorithm of your choice (such as AES). QKD provides security benefits primarily through the ability of the two communicating parties to detect the presence of any third party seeking access to the key.
This is possible as a result of quantum mechanics, whereby the process of measuring a quantum system disturbs the system and changes the particle’s behavior. As a result, a hacker seeking to intercept a key must somehow measure it, thus introducing anomalies that can be detected and used to alert the parties to the compromise of the key.
QKD provides the greatest level of security because it allows the two communicating parties to detect any third party who is attempting to gain access to the key. Due to quantum mechanics, a measurement of a quantum system will disrupt the system in general, altering the behavior of the particles. Cryptographic systems can benefit greatly from quantum physics, as it turns out. Born’s rule says measurements of quantum states are intrinsically random, which means you can’t predict them better than blind guessing. We can use this principle of quantum mechanics to generate highly secure cryptographic keys by leveraging the inherent randomness in quantum measurements.
Quantum Random Number Generators (QRNGs) are a type of random number generator that are not new to the industry. Several QRNGs are commercially available today that promise true randomness for the generation of cryptographic keys that cannot be predicted. Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC), also known as quantum-safe or quantum-resistant cryptography, is another area of quantum cryptography that is receiving attention.
This research is aimed at developing new cryptographic algorithms that will be secure against quantum as well as classical computing power. In order to prepare for the day when large-scale quantum computers become a reality, these next-generation algorithms will replace our current public-key cryptosystems. NIST has already begun moving in this direction with the launch of its Post-Quantum Cryptography Project. One or more quantum-resistant public-key cryptographic algorithms will be solicited, evaluated, and standardized as part of this project. The deadline for submitting nominations for post-quantum candidate algorithms is November 2017.
Several years ago, NIST established a similar process when it was seeking to replace the Data Encryption Standard (DES) published in 1977 with a new algorithm. This process led to the development of the AES-256 encryption algorithm that is widely used today. These new PQC standards will be used in conjunction with existing standards that are currently available to provide quantum resistant alternatives. An encrypted message sent by Alice to Bob can be passively intercepted by a hacker without either of them realizing the message has been compromised. In order to crack the code, the hacker can use various methods, including fiber tapping, and spend a great deal of time (a trillion years!) and computing power on this process.
Take this same example and apply quantum cryptography to it. As we know that we cannot measure a photon without affecting its behavior, a hacker cannot go undetected when eavesdropping on a private conversation. The discrepancies will emerge if a hacker has intercepted the message after Bob receives all the photons and has a conversation with Alice about the message transmitted. As a result, the ‘transaction’ can be aborted, and a new key will be automatically generated. A fiber optic line’s security can be constantly monitored by sending multiple quantum keys every second, and attempts to tap the signal can be detected immediately.
Application note for WaveLogic Encryption Solution. A growing amount of sensitive information is being distributed over fiber-optic networks, and today’s web-scale communications use robust optical in-flight encryption solutions to ensure data security, regardless of whether it is traveling across a city, across a border, or across the ocean. It is important to research and develop advances in cryptography as the quantum computing era approaches, in order to guarantee the continued security of critical data and the networks that transport it around the world.
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