How quantum physics can make encryption stronger | Vikram Sharma

Recently, we’ve seen the effects
of cyber attacks on the business world. Data breaches at companies like JP Morgan,
Yahoo, Home Depot and Target have caused losses of hundreds of millions and in some cases, billions of dollars. It wouldn’t take many large attacks
to ravage the world economy. And the public sector
has not been immune, either. In 2012 to 2014, there was a significant data breach
at the US Office of Personnel Management. Security clearance
and fingerprint data was compromised, affecting 22 million employees. And you may have heard of the attempt
by state-sponsored hackers to use stolen data to influence election
outcomes in a number of countries. Two recent examples are
the compromise of a large amount of data from the Bundestag,
the national Parliament of Germany, and the theft of emails from the US
Democratic National Committee. The cyber threat is now affecting
our democratic processes. And it’s likely to get worse. As computer technology
is becoming more powerful, the systems we use to protect our data
are becoming more vulnerable. Adding to the concern
is a new type of computing technology, called quantum computing, which leverages microscopic
properties of nature to deliver unimaginable increases
in computational power. It’s so powerful that it will crack
many of the encryption systems that we use today. So is the situation hopeless? Should we start packing
our digital survival gear and prepare for an upcoming
data apocalypse? I would say, not yet. Quantum computing is still in the labs, and it will take a few years
until it’s put to practical applications. More important, there have been major breakthroughs
in the field of encryption. For me, this is
a particularly exciting time in the history of secure communications. About 15 years ago, when I learned of our new-found ability to create quantum effects
that don’t exist in nature, I was excited. The idea of applying
the fundamental laws of physics to make encryption stronger really intrigued me. Today, a select groups of companies
and labs around the world, including mine, are maturing this technology
for practical applications. That’s right. We are now preparing
to fight quantum with quantum. So how does this all work? Well, first, let’s take a quick tour
of the world of encryption. For that, you’ll need a briefcase, some important documents that you want
to send your friend, James Bond, and a lock to keep it all safe. Because the documents are top secret,
we’re going to use an advanced briefcase. It has a special combination lock which, when closed, converts all the text
in the documents to random numbers. So you put your documents inside,
close the lock — at which point in time the documents
get converted to random numbers — and you send the briefcase to James. While it’s on its way,
you call him to give him the code. When he gets the briefcase,
he enters the code, the documents get unscrambled, and voilà, you’ve just sent
an encoded message to James Bond. (Laughter) A fun example, but it does illustrate
three things important for encryption. The code — we call this
an encryption key. You can think of it as a password. The call to James to give him
the code for the combination lock. We call this key exchange. This is how you ensure you get the encryption key
securely to the right place. And the lock, which encodes
and decodes the document. We call this an encryption algorithm. Using the key, it encodes
the text in the documents to random numbers. A good algorithm will encode in such a way that without the key
it’s very difficult to unscramble. What makes encryption so important is that if someone were to capture
the briefcase and cut it open without the encryption key
and the encryption algorithm, they wouldn’t be able
to read the documents. They would look like nothing more
than a bunch of random numbers. Most security systems rely
on a secure method for key exchange to communicate the encryption key
to the right place. However, rapid increases
in computational power are putting at risk a number
of the key exchange methods we have today. Consider one of the very
widely used systems today — RSA. When it was invented, in 1977, it was estimated that it would take
40 quadrillion years to break a 426-bit RSA key. In 1994, just 17 years later, the code was broken. As computers have become
more and more powerful, we’ve had to use larger and larger codes. Today we routinely use 2048 or 4096 bits. As you can see, code makers and breakers
are engaged in an ongoing battle to outwit each other. And when quantum computers arrive
in the next 10 to 15 years, they will even more rapidly
crack the complex mathematics that underlies many
of our encryption systems today. Indeed, the quantum computer is likely
to turn our present security castle into a mere house of cards. We have to find a way
to defend our castle. There’s been a growing
body of research in recent years looking at using quantum effects
to make encryption stronger. And there have been
some exciting breakthroughs. Remember those three things
important for encryption — high-quality keys, secure key exchange
and a strong algorithm? Well, advances in science and engineering are putting two of those
three elements at risk. First of all, those keys. Random numbers are the foundational
building blocks of encryption keys. But today, they’re not truly random. Currently, we construct encryption keys from sequences of random numbers
generated from software, so-called pseudo-random numbers. Numbers generated by a program
or a mathematical recipe will have some, perhaps subtle,
pattern to them. The less random the numbers are, or in scientific terms,
the less entropy they contain, the easier they are to predict. Recently, several casinos
have been victims of a creative attack. The output of slot machines
was recorded over a period of time and then analyzed. This allowed the cyber criminals to reverse engineer
the pseudo-random number generator behind the spinning wheels. And allowed them, with high accuracy,
to predict the spins of the wheels, enabling them to make big financial gains. Similar risks apply to encryption keys. So having a true random number generator
is essential for secure encryption. For years, researchers have been looking
at building true random number generators. But most designs to date
are either not random enough, fast enough or aren’t easily repeatable. But the quantum world is truly random. So it makes sense to take advantage
of this intrinsic randomness. Devices that can measure quantum effects can produce an endless stream
of random numbers at high speed. Foiling all those
would-be casino criminals. A select group of universities
and companies around the world are focused on building
true random number generators. At my company, our quantum
random number generator started life on a two meter
by one meter optic table. We were then able to reduce it
to a server-size box. Today, it’s miniaturized into a PCI card
that plugs into a standard computer. This is the world’s fastest
true random number generator. It measures quantum effects to produce
a billion random numbers per second. And it’s in use today to improve security at cloud providers, banks
and government agencies around the world. (Applause) But even with a true
random number generator, we’ve still got the second
big cyber threat: the problem of secure key exchange. Current key exchange techniques
will not stand up to a quantum computer. The quantum solution to this problem is called quantum key distribution or QKD, which leverages a fundamental,
counterintuitive characteristic of quantum mechanics. The very act of looking
at a quantum particle changes it. Let me give you an example
of how this works. Consider again exchanging the code
for the lock with James Bond. Except this time, instead of a call
to give James the code, we’re going to use quantum effects
on a laser to carry the code and send it over standard
optic fiber to James. We assume that Dr. No
is trying to hack the exchange. Luckily, Dr. No’s attempt to intercept
the quantum keys while in transit will leave fingerprints
that James and you can detect. This allows those intercepted keys
to be discarded. The keys which are then retained can be used to provide
very strong data protection. And because the security is based
on the fundamental laws of physics, a quantum computer, or indeed
any future supercomputer will not be able to break it. My team and I are collaborating
with leading universities and the defense sector to mature this exciting technology into the next generation
of security products. The internet of things
is heralding a hyperconnected era with 25 to 30 billion
connected devices forecast by 2020. For the correct functioning
of our society in an IoT world, trust in the systems that support
these connected devices is vital. We’re betting that quantum technologies
will be essential in providing this trust, enabling us to fully benefit
from the amazing innovations that are going to so enrich our lives. Thank you. (Applause)

49 thoughts on “How quantum physics can make encryption stronger | Vikram Sharma

  1. So I know a bit about quantum physics however I don't see how it could help encryption… I also know a lot about programming/ hacking/ and things of that nature. Tell me your thoughts (haven't watched the entire video yet)

  2. Ok but look this is wonderful and all but when companies have a data breach 9/10 times it’s because they didn’t use the proper security practices no matter how secure you make a network you can’t protect it from stupid people doing stupid things humans are the vulnerability

  3. Refreshing to see a TED talk that has nothing to do with liberal nonsense for a change.
    All hope may not be lost…..

  4. What a rare moment on away from talks like What if gentrification was about healing communities instead of displacing them? | Liz Ogbu

  5. i think quantam not change cyber attacks world . the attacker & the defender will have new powerful tools but the main point is the programmer

  6. this popped up in my recommended while doing my ap physics homework, so I decided to listen while doing it

  7. If Many Worlds theory is true, every quantum measurement clones the universe infinitely. Then use RQNG to guess the key. Wire some explosive to myself that explodes if the key is wrong. One of my clone in one of the many world, or myself may got the correct key and KNOW the guess is right. Profit! *Rick and Morty logic.

  8. The fiber optic laser password fingerprint can be intercepted and copied as soon as the clocks from the two computers can be modified to lie about the send and recieve times. Therefore no interruption will be visible. If the message is sent and recieved by false clock times

  9. If there's a security breach in today's system using encryption – it's not because someone had a powerful enough computer to brute force it or algorithms didn't have enough randomness. It's mostly because of some humane mistake or an exploit no encryption could've prevented. Seems like this talk had intentional misleading and fearmongering in order to promote some security companies and their products.

    You know how to achieve "true" randomness in computing? Calculate input values from user's mouse movement and tell him/her to randomly wiggle it. VeraCrypt does this. That simple. No much need for +10k dollar "randomness chips" this guy is probably selling from his company.

    But of course there's "quantum" buzzword so we have iamverysmarts applauding "REAL TED TALK" when there's actually very little substance in the talk itself.

  10. Predicting the future is usually wrong as we can't think about what we don't know will exist in the future.
    And will the future show that quantum effects aren't "truly random"?

  11. I have a different viewpoint to Quantum Mechanics and Double Slit Experiment.
    In normal circumstances, human being is busy with either good deeds or bad deeds in the absence of anybody around him or when he thinks he is seen by nobody. We cannot know what he does is good or bad.
    In fact, in quantum mechanics the human being in the box may be busy with either good or bad or busy with both good deeds or bad deeds at the same time.
    However, when a sufi or darweesh thinks that there is somebody who always monitors him, he would behave differently as it is in double split experiment, and he would fix himself to do always the one which is good.
    The saying or hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that “Even you cannot see Allah, He always sees you” has a lot of meaning in this sense in our philosophy of life.
    In conclusion, if human being knows that Allah always sees him does not do wrong things.

    Listen to the voice of The Noble Quran.
    And follow that which is revealed to you from your Lord. Indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. (Surah Al Ahzap. Verse 2)
    And your god is one God. There is no deity [worthy of worship] except Him, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.(Surah Al Baqarah Verse 163)
    Say, "It is only revealed to me that your god is but one God; so will you be Muslims [in submission to Him]?" (Surah Al Anbya Verse 108)

  12. How about using the white noise on a reverse biased diode connected to a schmitt trigger for a truly random generator? It only costs pennys.

  13. Nice story to understand the three key elements of encryption: key, exchange and algorithm. Vikram Sharma has solved the first two using quantum computing, which was the apparent enemy to encryption itself. Hope he is able to solve the third element i.e. algorithm, using quantum effects. All the best!

  14. Hmm…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *