Although a Recent Breakthrough in Quantum Cryptography Promises to Render Data Transmission Failsafe, Data Vulnerability Will Remain Unchanged

 

            Scientists from Bristol University working with 41 partners from 12 European countries in Vienna, Austria have achieved the first-ever quantum cryptography. This is the holy grail in data encryption; a system of secure digital communication that is not just faster or harder to crack, but absolutely impregnable.

            Quantum cryptography is difficult for someone who is not a physicist to understand. Over-simplified, it works like this:  Between boxes “A” and “B” I transmit a coded key using fiber optic cable.  If anyone attempts to intercept the key en route, their effort changes the content of the boxes in a detectable way and scrambles the key.

            [California, Nevada and Massachusetts just increased statutory safeguards for electronic data (Brian Krebs “New State Laws Target Data Encryption, RFID Tracking,Washington Post, October 3, 2008). But those efforts seem feeble when compared to the invincibility of electronic data transmission using quantum technology.]

            Like other breakthroughs such as gunpowder and the atomic bomb; I expect this huge performance leap in our ability to conceal electronic data will change the playing field without being a game-changer. The reason quantum security is an incomplete solution is that humans with all their foibles still encrypt and decrypt at each end of transmissions. Certainly, bankers and lawyers (not to mention the NSA) will love hacker-proof  "one-time-pad-encryption“ in digital form. Yet, we still have no way to prevent wildly risky investments; or to preclude attorneys and clients from exposing secrets at their source or destination.