Quantum Cryptography Could Make Your Phone Uncrackable Someday

As the world of cybersecurity becomes increasingly volatile, more advanced solutions to problems like encryption couldn’t come soon enough. This is why everybody’s excited about a team of British physicists’ testing a method that would put quantum cryptology in everybody’s pocket.

Quantum cryptology is a slightly complicated but ultimately gamechanging thing. Put simply, it’s practically uncrackable, making it the holy grail of encryption techniques. Whereas traditional methods of cryptology depend on mathematical formulas—which can be solved—to encrypt data, quantum cryptology depends on the laws of physics—which cannot be broken—to do so. Up until now, however, quantum cryptology has required serious hardware that’s typically only found in quantum optics labs.

Before getting into the new technique, it would be helpful to review the basics of quantum cryptology. Imagine Alice and Bob want to communicate with each other without a third party, Eve, listening in. Traditionally, they would have public and private keys that are very big prime numbers, creating a math problem that would take Eve millions of years to solve. As computers get better, though, that math problem becomes easier. This is where quantum cryptology comes into play. Instead of a series of numbers, Alice would send the key to Bob as a series of photons. Based on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Eve wouldn’t be able to observe the photons without changing or destroying them.