With so much sensitive data traveling among governmental agencies, financial institutions, and organized crime rackets, the need for ultra-secure communication has never been higher, and now it seems like the holy grail of unbreakable encryption is almost upon us. Researchers from Northwestern University and Massachusetts-based BBN Technologies recently joined forces to demonstrate what's being hailed as the world's first fully-functional quantum cryptographic data network, as the system leverages the quantum entanglement properties of photons for both data transfer as well as key distribution. The magic of quantum cryptography lies in the fact that not only can two parties exchange the so-called keys without the risk of an eavesdropper ever being able to fully ascertain their values, but the simple act of eavesdropping on an encrypted data transfer can easily be detected on both ends of the line. This current breakthrough combined Northwestern's data encryption method (known as AlphaEta) with BBN's key encryption scheme to enable a completely secure fiber optic link between BBN's headquarters and Harvard University, a distance of nine kilometers. As you might imagine, the entire project was funded by a $5.4 million grant from DARPA, an agency which has a vested interest in transmitting data that not even a theoretical quantum computer could crack. It will be a while before this technology filters down to the consumer, but when it does, you can bet that BitTorrenting pirates will be beside themselves with joy.
First quantum cryptographic data network demoed
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