A new technique that offers a less expensive way of making sure a data security solution is in place has been discovered by scientists from Cambridge University and Toshiba, according to The New York Times. The technique is a way of making sure high-speed fiber optic cables, the backbone of modern internet connections, are secured.
According to the Times, this research was published in the science journal Physical Review X and described a technique for "making infinitesimally short time measurements needed to capture pulses of quantum light hidden in streams of billions of photons transmitted each second in data networks." The report said scientists used an advanced photodetector to help extract the weaker photons from the light pulses carried by these cables and made it possible to distribute secret keys to scramble data up to 56 miles of travel, something that had previously not been possible.
"Such data scrambling systems will most likely be used first for government communications systems for national security," according to the New York Times. "But they will also be valuable for protecting financial data and ultimately all information transmitted over the Internet. The approach is based on quantum physics, which offers the ability to exchange information in a way that the act of eavesdropping on the communication would be immediately apparent."
With this new achievement, the news source said engineers can now measure a small window of time to carry a pulse of light. Andrew J. Shields, one of the authors of the paper and the assistant managing director for Toshiba Research Europe, told the news source that there are currently many quantum key distribution systems that exist, but they all rely on the ability and necessity to transmit the keys separate from communication data, which could add costs and complexities to the system which would be used to secure the information.
How this discovery will help security
The new ability to weave quantum information into networking data will lower the cost and complexity of coding and decoding processes, according to the New York Times, and will make systems much more attractive for commercial data networks. In this system, information will be sent over the same distribution system as other data streams but will be isolated to its own frequency.
“We can pick out the quantum photons from the scattered light using their expected arrival time at the detector,” Dr. Shields said. “The quantum signals hit the detector at precisely known times – every one nanosecond, while the arrival time of the scattered light is random … By measuring the error rate in the secret key, we can determine whether there has been any eavesdropping in the fiber and in that way directly test the secrecy of each key.”
Stamping out online fraud
At the University of Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt University in Glasgow, physicists have developed a way to use light particles to help verify Internet transactions. The team said their discovery may very well help engineers curb cybercrime in the retail sector, with one researcher, John Jeffers, saying that online transaction safety could soon be all but guaranteed.
With traditional online data security, the Glasgow City of Science website said there are three signatures that can be easily cracked by hackers and others who wish to steal information or defraud a person or company, but the quantum digital signatures offers a different approach that will better authenticate the origin of messages.
"Computer virus attacks have shown that ‘signatures’ or specific codes can be hijacked, potentially causing chaos with systems being crippled, accounts hacked, and industry and consumers losing millions of pounds," Professor Gerald Buller, of Heriot-Watt University, said, according to the website. "Our new approach, using quantum mechanics rather than just maths to create signatures for multiple recipients (or customers), and could make hacking, fraud and theft near-impossible.”
Data Security News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro.