Quantum enigma machine sends encrypted message with key shorter than the message

09/07/2016 - 16:02

Peter Iglinski | Image: Daniel Lum

Researchers at the University of Rochester have moved beyond the theoretical in demonstrating that an unbreakable encrypted message can be sent with a key that’s far shorter than the message—the first time that has ever been done.

Until now, unbreakable encrypted messages were transmitted via a system envisioned by American mathematician Claude Shannon, considered the “father of information theory.” Shannon combined his knowledge of algebra and electrical circuitry to come up with a binary system of transmitting messages that are secure, under three conditions: the key is random, used only once, and is at least as long as the message itself.


Ref: Quantum enigma machine: Experimentally demonstrating quantum data locking. Physical Review A (12 August 2016) | DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.94.022315


Shannon proved in 1949 that information-theoretic-secure encryption is possible if the encryption key is used only once, is random, and is at least as long as the message itself. Notwithstanding, when information is encoded in a quantum system, the phenomenon of quantum data locking allows one to encrypt a message with a shorter key and still provide information-theoretic security. We present one of the first feasible experimental demonstrations of quantum data locking for direct communication and propose a scheme for a quantum enigma machine that encrypts 6 bits per photon (containing messages, new encryption keys, and forward error correction bits) with less than 6 bits per photon of encryption key while remaining information-theoretically secure.