[ISN] A New Cryptography Uses The Quirks of Photon Streams

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Sun Nov 03 2002 - 22:28:55 PST

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    Forwarded from: Elyn Wollensky <elynat_private>
    November 4, 2002
    The quirky world of quantum physics, where mathematical elements can
    hold multiple values and objects can be in several places at once, is
    heading toward commercial products.
    A start-up company, MagiQ Technologies, plans to announce today a
    cryptogaphy - or code - system that uses a technology called quantum
    key distribution to thwart eavesdropping on a fiber optic
    communication channel. The company, based in New York, says it has a
    working model of its system and will have a commercial version
    available in the second half of next year.
    With the system, keys to the code are transmitted as a stream of
    photons, sent over a fiber optic cable. Because of the properties of
    quantum physics, the mere act of observing the transmission would
    alter the photons, rendering their information useless to any
    A limit of the system is that it would not work on the Internet, only
    over dedicated fiber cables in which the photon transmission can be
    carefully controlled. But outside researchers say that quantum
    cryptography does make possible electronic conversations that would be
    immune to eavesdropping.
    "MagiQ seems to be ahead of the research community in terms of making
    this affordable and practical," said Dr. Burton S. Kaliski Jr., the
    chief scientist of RSA Laboratories, one of the leading developers of
    conventional cryptographic systems.
    Research in quantum cryptography goes back into the 1980's. But MagiQ
    (pronounced as magic) and a Swiss competitor, ID Quantique, are the
    first to attempt to develop commercial systems based on the
    technology. ID Quantique's system has not yet reached the market.
    MagiQ was founded in 1999 by Robert Gelfond, a former securities
    trading executive for D. E. Shaw & Company who was also a first-round
    investor in Amazon.
    The company has raised $6.9 million from investors who include
    Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos; Walter Riley, the chairman of Guaranteed
    Overnight Delivery; and Neal Goldman, the president of Goldman Capital
    Industry analysts say that military applications would probably be the
    primary use for quantum cryptography. "The Defense Department is going
    to care, and that's big money for a small start-up to survive on,"
    said Laura Koetzle, a computer security analyst at Forrester Research.
    MagiQ also plans to explore other commercial applications from quantum
    physics, including quantum computing. Some scientists predict that
    computers based on quantum principle are possible and will be able to
    perform specialized tasks far more quickly than computers can.
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