Sending potentially unhackable messages using satellites, Chinese scientists are believed to lead the way in creating a hack-proof quantum communication network in the world.
Using the first global quantum satellite dubbed Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), China transmitted secret messages from space to Earth at a distance longer than previously observed.
China’s Quantum Satellite Feat
The achievement was detailed in the journal Nature last Thursday, Aug.10, Xinhua reported.
The satellite, nicknamed “Micius” to honor a 5th century B.C. scientist and philosopher credited for being the first to conduct optimal experiments, was blasted into orbit Aug. 16 last year at a 500-kilometer (310.7-mile) altitude.
It sent quantum keys to ground stations in China, with communication distance lying between the satellite and the ground sites varying for up to 1,200 km (745.6 miles). The quantum key transmission rate, too, was touted as a maximum of 20 orders of magnitude operating more efficiently than expected when harnessing an optical fiber of such length.
“Satellite-based quantum key distribution can be linked to metropolitan quantum networks where fibers are sufficient and convenient to connect numerous users within a city over 100 km,” explained QUESS lead scientist Pan Jianwei, citing the idea of a space-ground integrated quantum network and the realization of quantum cryptography that could be useful at a global level.
This space-ground link for quantum transmission, he added, leads to the establishment of global-scale quantum networks.
What The Technology’s About
Traditional mathematics is employed in typical encryption, and the rise of quantum computing challenges that, CNBC explained. Quantum computing uses faster, much more powerful computers hoped to break current encryption levels.
Quantum key distribution (QKD), the technology in this recent feat, uses photons for transferring data. According to the researchers, it allows two distant users, who do not initially share a long secret key, to create a common and random string of secret bits known as a secret key.
With the one-time pad encryption, the key is deemed secure for encrypting and decrypting a message, which can then be passed on over a standard communication route.
Carrying the data via the photon is instrumental in rendering the encryption “unbreakable,” as a photon cannot be exactly copied. Any attempts of measuring it will disturb it, where an interceptor will leave a certain trace that can be easily detected, the scientists noted.
This is considered huge for cybersecurity, where businesses can become safer, and governments could also have a harder time hacking into the communication.
In June, a team of scientists from Shanghai successfully beat the record for quantum entanglement, beaming the entangled photons from 300 miles above Earth to separate places that were 750 miles apart.
The feat was also viewed as another breakthrough in quantum communications, tackling the urgent matter of cyberattacks.