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Bristol physicists working to bring quantum cryptology to our phones

Nicole Lee, @nicole
08.29.13
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It's no secret that our phones are often vulnerable to the occasional malicious hack, no matter how much we believe our passwords to be secure. But what if the encryption methods we used were based on the laws of physics instead of just mathematical formulas? The answer might just lie in quantum cryptology or quantum key distribution, which uses photon modification to encode and transmit data. However, the technology has typically required gear only found in top laboratories. Both sender and recipient need to have a source of those photons, the equipment has to be perfectly aligned and the encryption tends to be highly susceptible to noise.

Yet, Jeremy O'Brien and his physicist cohorts from the University of Bristol might have come upon a mobile-friendly solution. Their proposed method only requires the transmitting party to have the appropriate photon-sending equipment while the recipient needs just a simple device -- say, a phone -- to change them and send the information back. Called "reference frame independent quantum key distribution" or rfiQKD, the technique is robust enough to not rely on proper alignment and is apparently able to withstand a high level of noise as well. In a recent paper submitted to arXiv.org, O'Brien and his co-authors state that "the results significantly broaden the operating potential for QKD outside the laboratory and pave the way for quantum enhanced security for the general public with handheld mobile devices." While we're not sure if the method will solve all our security woes, it's certainly a start. If you feel you're able to grok the science, head on over to the source for more details on the team's findings.

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