Is Quantum Cryptography the Answer to Hacking?

There were 1.4 million reports of identity theft reported last year, and it is estimated that by 2025, cybersecurity will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually. While conventional methods (i.e: public key encryption, private key encryption) of cybersecurity are becoming obsolete, quantum cryptography may be the key to a more secure digital world. 

Quantum cryptography presents a unique approach to eliminating hacking and phishing by using the basic principles of  quantum mechanics to encrypt data. It has the potential to revolutionize cybersecurity by creating virtually “unhackable” spaces that will ensure that data stays confidential. 

But how does this happen? 

Quantum cryptography revolves around the qubit. Qubits are electrons in a magnetic field that have the ability to transmit information. They are negatively charged, extremely small subatomic particles that have encryption properties.

The effect of different principles of quantum mechanics allows for qubits to be extremely secure. 

The principle of entanglement enables qubits to behave as a collective system. In essence, it allows qubits to function as a system rather than as individual particles. 

The uncertainty principle and the ‘no change’ theory work together to say that measuring any object will disturb it. For instance, if Alice wants to check if Jocelyn is sleeping and Alice taps Jocelyn, that might wake Jocelyn up. By waking Jocelyn up, Alice has disturbed Jocelyn’s sleep.

In a similar fashion, quantum cryptography keeps messages secure by “disturbing” the message being sent if it was being measured by a hacker.

Quantum cryptography requires the message to be sent over a certain distance in order to transmit the information correctly. Furthermore, it requires the sender and receiver to have “calibrated” their devices to allow for the correct flow of qubits and the correct message to be communicated. 

Hypothetically, if two parties are exchanging information, they are the only ones with access to it. However, if a third party attempts to intercept the message, the message will not have traveled the appropriate distance and the message will be altered. Hence, neither the intended receiver nor the interceptor will get access to the message. This ensures complete confidentiality, as well as a mechanism to test for hackers and interceptors.

Together, these principles and mechanisms allow users to be notified when there is a third person listening in on the conversation. In order for a hacker to intercept a message, they must align their device with that of the intended recipient and then measure the photons. By measuring it, however, they will not be able to see the information being sent and also end up exposing themselves in the process. As a result, if the sender and receiver compare messages, they will be able to detect the presence of a third party.

While quantum cryptography is promising, the actual practicality of it is almost unimaginable in today’s standards. First, the implementation of this advanced encryption requires the use of quantum computers, and there is yet to be a practical commercial quantum computer available. There is also the limitation of the distance over which these messages can be sent. As quantum computers are not yet optimized for quantum cryptography, they could only be used within a radius of 10 miles as opposed to the virtually infinite radius of current cryptography. 

Cybercrime thrived during the pandemic, and as the internet becomes more of a staple in people’s lives, keeping up-to-date with encryption and cybersecurity is more important than ever. Although quantum cryptography is still in its early stages of being theorized, the increasing threat of cybercrime encourages us to take basic steps to protect ourselves from identity theft, phishing and hacking.

For tips on how to protect your cybersecurity, consider checking out the following guide made by CHUBB.

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