“Our solution is scalable, relatively inexpensive, and most important of all, impregnable.”
Is it impossible to hack the Internet? It’s possible. A team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol (UK), has created a prototype of a completely secure Internet network, being the “largest quantum network of its kind”.
This, if carried out, would ensure online communication to millions of Internet users and would guarantee the “complete security” of their messages from the threat of interception.
The origin of this project is explained in an article published in the scientific journal ‘Science Advances‘, which reveals how the team used a principle known as entanglement to exploit the power of two separate particles placed in different places to mimic each other exactly at the same time.
The first step for the future
This process, the researchers report, opens the way to much better opportunities in the area of quantum computers, sensors and information processing.
“This represents a massive breakthrough and makes the quantum internet a much more realistic proposition. Until now, building a quantum network has entailed huge cost, time, and resource, as well as often compromising on its security which defeats the whole purpose”, explains Siddarth Joshi, of the Laboratory of Technology of Quantum Engineering of the University of Bristol to Unilad.
“Our solution is scalable, relatively cheap and, most important of all, impregnable. That means it’s an exciting game changer and paves the way for much more rapid development and widespread rollout of this technology,” he adds.
Today’s Internet systems rely on complex codes to protect information. However, hackers are increasingly getting better at compressing these systems, leading to an increase in cyberattacks globally, resulting in major privacy breaches, fraud, and millions in losses.
Thus, the need to find an alternative is increasingly important. Quantum technology has been considered a revolutionary substitute for standard encryption techniques. Physicists have already developed a type of secure encryption, called quantum key distribution, that transmits particles of light, known as photons.
Two to multiple users
Through this process, two users can share a secret key to encrypt and decrypt the information, without the risk of being intercepted. However, to date, this technique has only proven effective between two users.
Instead of establishing physical connections (for example, fiberglass) between each of the users, the team was able to build a system in which each user had only one fiberglass connected to a source of quantum entanglement.
“Until now efforts to expand the network have involved vast infrastructure and a system which requires the creation of another transmitter and receiver for every additional user,” says Joshi. “Sharing messages in this way, known as trusted nodes, is just not good enough because it uses so much extra hardware which could leak and would no longer be totally secure..”
Joshi and his team, instead of having to replicate the entire communication system, have chosen to split the light particles, emitted by a single system so that they can be received by multiple users efficiently.