The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has demonstrated what it claims is the world’s fastest distribution of a quantum encryption key.
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Quantum key distribution (QKD) is regarded as the next generation of data security.
While conventional encryption keys can be broken given sufficiently powerful computers and enough time, QKD is considered “verifiably secure”.
The NIST laboratory produced a “raw” key at a rate of more than four million bits per second over one kilometre of optical fibre cabling.
The NIST QKD system uses single photons, the smallest particles of light, in different orientations to produce a continuous binary code, or key, for encrypting information.
Using lasers, the system was able to generate a stream of single photons, transmitted for the quantum key through an optical fibre.
In a QKD system, encryption codes are based on the quantum states of individual photons. QKD is regarded as tamperproof since any attempt at eavesdropping causes detectable changes in the system.