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China launches first quantum-enabled satellite

Posted by on August 17, 2016.

(… or, maybe not)

Aside from the fact that it allows me to make a quantum joke, this article allows me to rant about quantum cryptography.

Ever since I have started to research the security implications of quantum computing, quantum crypto has bugged me. Yes, the theory is beautifully elegant, and (theoretically) allows us to detect passive eavesdropping for the first time. But dozens of attacks have demonstrated that, as usual, the devil is in the implementation details.

And the implementation details here are even bigger. Our current quantum crypto systems require dedicated, single-mode fibre optic cable. And, as I keep pointing out to students and in presentations, if you’ve got dedicated, single-mode fibre optic cable you have very little need for encryption. (No, agreed, not zero. But I think we can agree that this is a pretty good definition of “vanishingly small.”)

I did once hear of a project to try and use quantum crypto between ATMs and smartphones, and that might (*MIGHT*) have been a defence against shimming attacks. But that was limited to 30 cm, and this is going to be a lot farther.

Despite the mounting evidence that quantum crypto is not going to be a panacea for all security ills, interest in the topic just keeps growing. (And what *really* irks me is that it diverts attention from other areas of research into the use of actual quantum computing, which probably would be really useful in security.)

I will be interested to learn of the results of the testing.

But I’m not holding my breath.

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Submitted in: Expert Views, News, News_encryption, Rob Slade, Security |