Revelations of the extent of government surveillance have thrown a spotlight on the security – or lack thereof – of our digital communications.
Even today’s encrypted data is vulnerable to technological progress. What privacy is ultimately possible? In the 27 March issue of Nature, the weekly international journal of science, researchers Artur Ekert and Renato Renner review what physics tells us about keeping our secrets secret.
In the history of secret communication, the most brilliant efforts of code-makers have been matched time and again by the ingenuity of code-breakers. Sometimes we can even see it coming. We already know that one of today’s most widely used encryption systems, RSA, will become insecure once a quantum computer is built.
But that story need not go on forever. “Recent developments in quantum cryptography show that privacy is possible under stunningly weak assumptions about the freedom of action we have and the trustworthiness of the devices we use,” says Ekert, Professor of Quantum Physics at the University of Oxford, UK, and Director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore. He is also the Lee Kong Chian Centennial Professor at the National University of Singapore.
Over 20 years ago, Ekert and others independently proposed a way to use the quantum properties of particles of light to share a secret key for secure communication. The key is a random sequence of 1s and 0s, derived by making random choices about how to measure the particles (and some other steps), that is used to encrypt the message. In the Nature Perspective, he and Renner describe how quantum cryptography has since progressed to commercial prospect and into new theoretical territory.
Even though privacy is about randomness and trust, the most surprising recent finding is that we can communicate secretly even if we have very little trust in our cryptographic devices – imagine that you buy them from your enemy – and in our own abilities to make free choices – imagine that your enemy is also manipulating you. Given access to certain types of correlations, be they of quantum origin or otherwise, and having a little bit of free will, we can protect ourselves. What’s more, we can even protect ourselves against adversaries with superior technology that is unknown to us.
"As long as some of our choices are not completely predictable and therefore beyond the powers that be, we can keep our secrets secret," says Renner, Professor of Theoretical Physics at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. This arises from a mathematical discovery by Renner and his collaborator about 'randomness amplification': they found that a quantum trick can turn some types of slightly-random numbers into completely random numbers. Applied in cryptography, such methods can reinstate our abilities to make perfectly random choices and guarantee security even if we are partially manipulated.
“As well as there being exciting scientific developments in the past few years, the topic of cryptography has very much come out of the shadows. It’s not just spooks talking about this stuff now,” says Ekert, who has worked with and advised several companies and government agencies.
The semi-popular essay cites 68 works, from the writings of Edgar Allen Poe on cryptography in 1841, through the founding papers of quantum cryptography in 1984 and 1991, right up to a slew of results from 2013.
The authors conclude that “The days we stop worrying about untrustworthy or incompetent providers of cryptographic services may not be that far away”.
Senior Manager (Media Relations)
Office of Corporate Relations
National University of Singapore
DID: +65 6516 5399
Carolyn FONG | newswise
Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record
27.07.2015 | Duke University
Two crystals are better than one
22.07.2015 | The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.
The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.
By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...
Argonne scientists used Mira to identify and improve a new mechanism for eliminating friction, which fed into the development of a hybrid material that exhibited superlubricity at the macroscale for the first time. Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) researchers helped enable the groundbreaking simulations by overcoming a performance bottleneck that doubled the speed of the team's code.
While reviewing the simulation results of a promising new lubricant material, Argonne researcher Sanket Deshmukh stumbled upon a phenomenon that had never been...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
30.07.2015 | Life Sciences
30.07.2015 | Trade Fair News
30.07.2015 | Awards Funding