Quantum cryptography tutorial: Is quantum key distribution realistic?

In this Royal Holloway MSc thesis, Sheila Cobourne and Dr. Carlos Cid explore the viability of quantum key distribution for enterprise use.

Cryptography is one of the success stories in the information security world. Properly implemented, it prevents prying eyes and criminals from seeing confidential data on IT systems and via the Internet.

However, some of the most popular types of cryptography rely on the difficulty of solving complex mathematical problems to provide security against attack. The advent of quantum computing could reduce the time it takes to solve these problems so dramatically that they will no longer provide effective security.

All is not lost, though; a totally new technique, quantum cryptography, is waiting in the wings. This nascent type of cryptography seeks to harness the laws of quantum mechanics, along with quantum computing power, to provide stronger encryption and, thus, greater information security.

Since quantum computing is still in its infancy, this is largely a theoretical area, but one type of quantum cryptography is achievable with today’s technology: Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).

In this new article, Sheila Cobourne and Dr. Carlos Cid explore the viability of QKD and argue that the technology has a definite role to play in carefully selected applications.

Based on Sheila Cobourne’s MSc thesis at Royal Holloway University of London (RHUL), the article gives a basic quantum cryptography tutorial, explains in simple terms how the technology works, examines its commercial prospects and outlines the barriers it might need to overcome to gain widespread acceptance.

The feature is one of five SearchSecurity.co.UK is publishing this year in collaboration with RHUL.

This was last published in May 2011

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