Position-based quantum encryption a potential new tool for cybersecurity
(VerveTimes) Quantum mathematicians at the University of Copenhagen have solved a mathematical riddle that allows for a person’s geographical location to be used as a personal ID that is secure against even the most advanced cyber attacks.
People have used codes and encryption to protect information from falling into the wrong hands for thousands of years. Today, encryption is widely used to protect our digital activity from hackers and cybercriminals who assume false identities and exploit the internet and our increasing number of digital devices to steal from us.
As such, there is an ever-growing need for new security measures to detect hackers posing as our banks or other trusted institutions. Within this realm, researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Mathematical Sciences have just made a giant leap.
For nearly twenty years, researchers around the world have been trying to solve the riddle of how to securely determine a person’s geographical location and use it as a secure ID. Until now, this had not been possible by way of normal methods like GPS tracking.
“Today, there are no traditional ways, whether by internet or radio signals for example, to determine where another person is situated geographically with one hundred percent accuracy. Current methods are not unbreakable, and hackers can impersonate someone you trust even when they are far far away. However, quantum physics opens up a few entirely different possibilities,” says Matthias Christandl.
Using the laws of quantum physics, the researchers developed a new security protocol that uses a person’s geographical location to guarantee that they are communicating with the right person. Position-based quantum encryption, as it is called, can be used to ensure that a person is speaking with an actual bank representative when the bank calls and asks a customer to make changes to their account.
The researchers’ recipe for securing a person’s location combines the information in a single quantum bit — a qubit — followed by classical bits, consisting of the ones and zeroes that we are familiar with from ordinary computers.
The quantum bit serves as a kind of lock on the message, due to the role of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in quantum physics, which causes quantum information to be disrupted and impossible to decode when trying to measure it. It is also due to what is known as the “no-cloning theorem,” which makes quantum information impossible to intercept and secretly copy. This will remain the case for quite some time.
The researchers highlight the fact that the new method is particularly handy because only a single quantum bit is needed for position verification. So, unlike many other quantum technologies that require further development, this new discovery can be put to use today. Suitable quantum sources that can send a quantum bit of light already exist.
The security ID needs to be developed commercially, by a company for example, before it can be widely adopted. However, its quantum foundation is in place.