Unbreakable Encryption

by Dr Nick

Encryption Algorithms Under Siege

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Over the course of history, the development and subsequent breaking of encryption standards have been a constant cycle. As new keys were developed so they were broken and the speed of with which new keys were broken has increased. Modern day encryption “Data Encryption Standard” or DES was launched int he 70’s with a 56-bit key (64 bits but with 8 parity bits). This encryption was cracked in 1999 and with the likelihood, looming NIST launched a new search for encryption standards giving rise to Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) (aka Rijndael) with 256-bit keys and is under attack both cryptographically and by brute force of faster computers including as and when they arrive. As a result, NIST is seeking new proposals for cryptographic standards to replace AES when it is broken – but with the advent of Quantum computing this will be broken too

Unbreakable Encryption

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I spoke with John Prisco, President & CEO for QuantumXchange who in his words are pioneering unbreakable encryption. I know what you’re thinking – the idea of something being unbreakable/unhackable seems impossible and I was dubious as well.

But here’s what’s interesting – the foundation of the technology is the Heisenberg (no not that Heisenberg) uncertainty principle

 


You have to go deep into theoretical quantum physics to understand the background to this and while no expert I’m fascinated by the quantum world. This explanation in the Encyclopedia Brittanica is helpful comparing the concept to measuring the pressure of air in your tires TL;dr you can’t because as soon as you attach the pressure gauge you change the pressure. Essentially you can never know with perfect accuracy both of the position and velocity of a particle. It is impossible to determine accurately both the position and the direction and speed of a particle at the same instant.  You could learn more from the always brilliant Richard Feynman video Lecture: Probability and Uncertainty in Quantum Mechanics

Cryptography

Single Photon Based Encryption Keys

That uncertainty is a physical property, not a mathematical derivation (the foundation of encryption). QuantumXchange uses the quantum properties of single photons (light) to exchange data between two locations, with keys derived from the exchanged quantum information. The keys are Tamper Evident: Any attempt to intercept (look at or break) the key will change the state thanks to Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle causing a change in quantum state thereby corrupting the key – in which case those keys are rejected and a new pair created.

All this takes place on “Dark Fiber” from Boston to Washington DC and offering this up to customers in the healthcare and financial services markets and have examples already in play of oil rigs using their Quantum Keys to secure the huge numbers of IoT devices that are used in critical infrastructure and control for oil drilling and production

This concept is especially important for Healthcare data which has the longest shelf life of any data in the industry so protecting it over extended periods of time is essential if we are to maintain patients privacy and confidentiality

Here’s the Interview:

 


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