The world’s first uncrackable security system has been developed by researchers in Scotland, it has been claimed.
Computer scientists have long feared the arrival of quantum computing would allow encrypted data to be easily decoded by hackers.
But a global team, including scientists from the University of St Andrews, say they have achieved “perfect secrecy” by creating a chip which effectively generates a one-time-only key every time data is sent through it.
“It’s the equivalent of standing talking to someone using two paper-cups attached by string,” said Professor Andrea Di Falco of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the university. “If you scrunched up the cups when speaking it would mask the sound, but each time it would be scrunched differently so it could never be hacked.
“This new technique is absolutely unbreakable.”
It works by storing digital information as light which is then passed through a specially engineered silicon chip containing structures which bend and refract that light, scrambling the information.
Crucially, this bending and refracting is different every time depending on the specific data being sent.
If the research – published in the Nature Communications journal – is proven correct, it is said it would be invaluable for communication providers, government agencies and global banks, all of which have been wrestling with the potential problem of encrypted information being easily accessible in the future.
“People are becoming increasingly concerned about the privacy of their data so this is future-proofing their security,” said Professor Di Falco.
Although quantum computers are still thought to be a long way off, Google claims its specially developed Sycamore Processor is already capable of solving problems that would take other computers thousands of years to complete.
Security experts have long warned that today’s encryption software will be rendered entirely obsolete by the arrival of such machines.
Andrea Fratalocchi, leader of the study and associate professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, said: “With the advent of more powerful and quantum computers, all current encryptions will be broken in a very short time, exposing the privacy of our present and, more importantly, past communications.
“For instance, an attacker can store an encrypted message that is sent today and wait for the right technology to become available to decipher the communication.
“Implementing massive and affordable resources of global security is a worldwide problem that this research has the potential to solve for everyone, and everywhere.”