April 22nd, 2002, 01:20 PM
Uncrackable Encryption: Its no longer sci-fi
When I first heard about the encryption technique developed by Dr. Richard Hughes, it sounded like science fiction. After he explained it to me in detail, it still sounded like science fiction.
Imagine, if you will, a means of delivering encryption keys that is so secure that it's impossible to break because doing so would violate the laws of physics. In other words, the delivery method is so secure, it's protected by the very fabric of the universe.
IF THAT DOESN'T get your attention, think about this: What Dr. Hughes is working with is a way to encode information on individual photons. He then sends these encoded photons to a receiver that can measure their characteristics and determine from those characteristics the data that the encoding represents. That's right: He's imprinting information on individual subatomic particles.
What makes this so secure is that the information can be encoded in several ways. If someone were to intercept these photons, only one of the possible encoding methods could be seen. If that method didn't contain the needed information, the eavesdropper couldn't then look at the information that was encoded differently.
So why couldn't a hacker occasionally determine the encoding method by trial and error? To do so would be pointless, because hackers could never be sure they were seeing the real data, and it would violate the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of quantum mechanics if the hacker tried to look at both types of polarization on the same particle. Add to these complications that the mere act of observing the photons in their path changes them, and that the change is immediately detectable by the recipient.
HERE'S HOW all of this works. Dr. Hughes, who works in the physics division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, creates photons using a very attenuated laser. He's able to choose the polarization of each photon so that, for example, a vertical polarization represents a 0 and horizontal polarization a 1. Or, you can use opposite diagonal polarizations.
The order of the polarization is varied randomly, but the sender has already sent the sequence to the receiver. That way, the receiver doesn't have to look at a bunch of other photons in search of the information; it just looks for the information coming from the transmitter.
The beauty of the method is that even if some hackers knew the order as well, they couldn't gather the information without being detected. Why? Again, Heisenberg: You cannot observe a subatomic particle without changing it. When particles that have been observed arrive at the receiver, their bit error rate is very high, alerting the receiver that the data stream is being observed. As a result, the encoding sequence can be changed immediately, regaining the security of the transmission.
NICE THEORY, RIGHT? But using polarized photons for encryption is more than just a theory. In fact, it's already working in at least two test installations: one is run by BBN Networks and Harvard University, the other by the Army and Navy Research Laboratories near Washington, D.C. Both installations transmit the photons over optical fiber. But transmitting photons over optical fiber is limited to about 70 km, because using repeaters to strengthen the signal would introduce anomalies similar to those of an eavesdropper. Dr. Hughes thinks the delivery method needs to go beyond that.
"A much more compelling application is by transmitting through the atmosphere," Dr. Hughes explains, adding that he's been able to do single-photon communications through the air in daylight with an acceptable bit error rate. No need to lay all that fiber-optic cable anymore. "The trick," he says, "is to find the single photon against the background." It sounds like a feat requiring equipment only NASA could afford--in fact, transmitting encryption keys to satellites is being tested--but Dr. Hughes says he's mastered "free-space quantum cryptography" using commercial off-the-shelf components.
Even better, you can buy this now. A Swiss company named id Quantique is already selling a device that performs over fiber networks what it calls quantum key distribution. While the wireless optical version Dr. Hughes is testing isn't available now, he says that at least two companies are working on commercial versions.
Once these products are available, you can be confident that your communications are secure. Unless someone starts messing around with the universe, anyway.
April 22nd, 2002, 01:24 PM
Dude... that is really really really neat. I wonder if any govt's will begin to use this 'round here or not. Not just research places, but other ones. Sounds promising.
April 22nd, 2002, 01:31 PM
From the stuff I have read on Quantum Physics, this still sounds kinda sketchy. Possile, yes, but I didn't think the technology was ready yet.
\"Ignorance is bliss....
but only for your enemy\"
April 22nd, 2002, 02:07 PM
Most of this went over my head so i have no real opinion on the subject.... lol
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Worth should be judged on quality... Not apperance... Anyone can sell you **** inside a pretty box.. The only real gift then is the box..
April 22nd, 2002, 02:10 PM
So a possible crack for this kind of encryption will be like ..
Sender's Transmitter --->Hacker's reciever --> Hacker's transmitter --> Intended recipient
This way if the hacker knows the exact code with which the data is encrypted ; data can be accessed (changes polarity here) and regenerated with out the knowledge of the sender or the reciever.
Hope i am wrong ...Any wonderful technology may not be so easily defeated.
April 22nd, 2002, 03:23 PM
For more info on this I suggest you check out this pdf on a commercial implementation...
The big thing is that it's only used for key exchange/generation as it doesn't prevent data from being intercepted: it only garantees that you will know that it's been intercepted... There's also some "logic" involved, it's not just a magical solution from the wonders of physics!
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