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[ISN] Scientists Find Cheaper Way to Ensure Internet Security
By JOHN MARKOFF
The New York Times
November 20, 2012
Scientists at Toshiba and Cambridge University have perfected a
technique that offers a less expensive way to ensure the security of the
high-speed fiber optic cables that are the backbone of the modern
The research, which will be published Tuesday in the science journal
Physical Review X, describes a technique for making infinitesimally
short time measurements needed to capture pulses of quantum light hidden
in streams of billions of photons transmitted each second in data
networks. Scientists used an advanced photodetector to extract weak
photons from the torrents of light pulses carried by fiber optic cables,
making it possible to safely distribute secret keys necessary to
scramble data over distances up to 56 miles.
Such data scrambling systems will most likely be used first for
government communications systems for national security. But they will
also be valuable for protecting financial data and ultimately all
information transmitted over the Internet.
The approach is based on quantum physics, which offers the ability to
exchange information in a way that the act of eavesdropping on the
communication would be immediately apparent. The achievement requires
the ability to reliably measure a remarkably small window of time to
capture a pulse of light, in this case lasting just 50 picoseconds â the
time it takes light to travel 15 millimeters.
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