Daily Management Review

China takes the lead in quantum cryptography


Scientists are racing to work on quantum cryptography, which is the only one that can withstand quantum computers in protecting digital information from hacking. As the newspaper The New York Times notes, Chinese scientists have clearly achieved greater success in this area compared to their counterparts from other countries.

Dozens of scientists and technology companies, from Google in the USA to Alibaba in China, are working on creating a full-fledged quantum computer, The New York Times writes. Such a device, using the phenomena of quantum mechanics to transmit and process data, will be much more efficient than the most powerful existing computers. It will be able crack the most reliable protection of digital information. The only way to save commercial and state secrets from a quantum computer is to protect them with quantum encryption.

In contrast to conventional cryptography, which uses mathematical methods to protect information, quantum cryptography works on the basis of physics and codes that protect information are transmitted in it by physical means: electrons, photons, etc. It is quite likely that such a cipher cannot be cracked. Many scientists in the world are working now to create such encryption, despite the fact that the threat in the form of a quantum computer has not yet appeared.

Just like in many other areas, Chinese scientists have succeeded in quantum cryptography.

China has already invested tens of millions of dollars in building networks that can transfer data using quantum encryption. Last year, the Chinese space satellite Mo-zi, named after the ancient Chinese philosopher, made it possible to make a video call between Beijing and Vienna using quantum encryption. In addition, last year a quantum communication network was launched between Beijing and Shanghai. However, at this stage quantum encryption can be used only for limited distances. The case of video communication between Beijing and Vienna set a record of 7450 km. On the ground, when using fiber-optic networks, the maximum distance is 240 km.

The Scientific and Technical University of China, which participated in launch of the Mo-zi, headed work on construction of a ground-based fiber-optic network stretching nearly 2000 km. Authorities of the provinces of Anhui and Shandong, on the territory of which this network passes, have invested a total of $ 80 million in this project. And now the network is expanding to other cities and regions of the country with large-scale support from the central authorities in order to go global to 2030.

In the United States, scientists initially focused on using conventional mathematical methods to create forms of encryption that can resist a quantum computer. The advantage of this technology is that it does not require creation of a new infrastructure. But while watching the activity of their Chinese colleagues, some American scientists also thought about quantum cryptography.

For example, Californian startup Qubitekk is developing quantum protection for power grids in Tennessee. Another startup, Quantum Xchange, is creating a quantum encryption network in the northeast United States. The technology is expected to serve the banks of Wall Street and other companies. 
Of course, The New York Times notes, the success of such startups can hardly be compared with Chinese developments, given the scale of China’s investment in the necessary infrastructure. But many experts believe that more important work will take place in research laboratories, and the Department of Energy is already funding a pilot network in Chicago, which will be able to surpass Chinese counterparts.

Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories collaborate with Qubitekk in the protection of power grid quantum technologies. Quantum Xchange builds a communication line with quantum encryption between Manhattan and Newark, and over time it will connect the major banks operating in these cities, and then along the entire East Coast of the United States.

source: nytimes.com