In a breakthrough in quantum cryptography, a team of 41 institutions has created the world's largest quantum key distribution network. The network enables them to create the most foolproof system in history for sending secret messages.

The process relies on the quantum mechanical property of quantum indeterminacy, meaning when a particle is measured, this alters the quantum state of that particle. This state change corrupts the particle.


In a quantum key distribution network, at one end of the secure transaction, the sender generates a quantum key, which will allow both parties to encrypt and decrypt messages. They can then securely send the key to any other parties in the network. Of course, quantum hax0rz are already working on theoretical ways to attack this kind of network. But the twist is that, since the information is encoding using quantum states, if anyone tries to hack the key, it essentially falls apart.

If an intermediate party tries to measure the message particles, the key will be altered beyond recognition, useless to any eavesdroppers. And hacking a quantum key is not only difficult and unlikely to yield any information, but it would also betray the hacker to both parties. It's a cryptographers dream.

This European network is impressive for being both very large and demonstrably practical. The team has transmitted secure telephone calls and video messages over this network. It may serve as a model for an ultimately secure network for baking data or government communication, making our ever-increasingly-valuable data a little bit safer. Or at the very least it will present the intrepid hackers of the world with a new challenge.


Researchers unite to distribute quantum keys [via EurekaALert]

(Image: "Crypto," by delgrosso.)