The advent of mass working from home has made many people more aware of the security risks of sending sensitive information via the internet. The best we can do at the moment is make it difficult to intercept and hack your messages — but we can’t make it impossible.
What we need is a new type of internet: the quantum internet. In this version of the global network, data is secure, connections are private and your worries about information being intercepted are a thing of the past.
My colleagues and I have just made a breakthrough, published in Science Advances, that will make such a quantum internet possible by scaling up the concepts behind it using existing telecommunications infrastructure.
Our current way of protecting online data is to encrypt it using mathematical problems that are easy to solve if you have a digital “key” to unlock the encryption but hard to solve without it. However, hard does not mean impossible and, with enough time and computer power, today’s methods of encryption can be broken.
Quantum communication, on the other hand, creates keys using individual particles of light (photons) , which — according to the principles of quantum physics — are impossible to make an exact copy of. Any attempt to copy these keys will unavoidably cause errors that can be detected. This means a hacker, no matter how clever or powerful they are or what kind of supercomputer they possess, cannot replicate a quantum key or read the message it encrypts.