IN THE never-ending arms race between encryptors and eavesdroppers, many of those on the side that is trying to keep messages secret are betting on quantum mechanics, a description of how subatomic particles behave, to come to their aid. In particular, they think a phenomenon called quantum entanglement may provide an unsubvertable way of determining whether or not a message has been intercepted by a third party. Such interception, quantum theory suggests, will necessarily alter the intercepted message in a recognisable way, meaning that the receiver will know it is insecure. This phenomenon depends on the fact, surprising but true, that particles with identical properties which are created simultaneously are entangled in a way that means one cannot have its properties altered without also altering the other, no matter how far apart they are.
Researchers in several countries have experimented with the idea of quantum encryption, with some success. They have sent quantum-entangled messages…Continue reading
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