Published: Sat, August 12, 2017
Business | By Max Garcia

Quantum communication breakthrough: China sends 'hack-proof' cipher from space

Quantum communication breakthrough: China sends 'hack-proof' cipher from space

The satellite has a photon receiver, and passes over ground stations at the same time every day, during which times scientists can beam up a stream of photons.

China is planning to launch more space science satellites in the coming years after the success of planned experiments with the world's first quantum satellite. However, using relay stations (which need to decrypt and reencrypt the signal because of the quantum nature) opens up the risk that the station has been compromised and could be intercepted in an unencrypted state.

In the event of snooping, the eavesdropper will end up disturbing the quantum channel and can be detected by the communicating users. In theory, then, it would be impossible to hack, Xinhua initially reported. During that time, the 300 kbit secure key can be generated and sent by the satellite, according to Pan.

Any attempt to access or measure these properties instantly makes changes to them, which can be identified instantly. Using the distributed entangled photons, the scientists performed the Bell test at space-like separation and without locality and freedom-of-choice loopholes. The photon pairs were demonstrated to be still entangled after travelling long distances and Bell's inequality was shown to be violated under strict Einstein locality conditions. However, the maximum distance over which messages can be sent securely is about 200km. The satellite removes this obstacle.

The communication distance between the satellite and the ground station varies from 645 kilometers to 1,200 kilometers, and the quantum key transmission rate from satellite to ground is up to 20 orders of magnitude more efficient than that expected using an optical fiber of the same length, said Pan.

The quantum technology is highly efficient to avail the demand of making an absolute safe transaction of a large amount in banking and also in making private and confidential phone calls.

Andrew Clarke - EMEA director at One Identity has also offered some insight.

China launched the world's first quantum satellite, nicknamed "Micius" after a 5th Century Chinese philosopher and scientist, on August 16, 2016.

The reviewers said many "challenges" remained to be ironed out before the technology could be widely adopted. China has taken the lead in the development of quantum teleporting and transmissions and has deployed a local area quantum network in the eastern Chinese city of Jinan, which is part of a 2,000km network being built between Beijing and Shanghai.

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