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Quantum crypto comes to Blighty

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Security for virtualized datacentres

UK reseller NOW Wireless has signed a deal to distribute MagiQtech's quantum cryptography solution, MagiQ QPN Security Gateway, in the UK.

Launched in the US in 2004, MagiqTech's two-box solution, provides secure quantum key exchange between two dedicated sites up to 120km apart. Once secure keys are exchanged, data can be encrypted using standard protocols, switching keys at up to 100 times per second.

The technology was first demonstrated outside the physics lab in July 2002 when a team from the University of Geneva and Swiss electronics company id Quantique exchanged keys across a 67km fibre optic network.

Quantum cryptography allows two users on an optical fibre network to form a shared key, the secrecy of which can be guaranteed. This takes advantage of the particle-like nature of light. In quantum cryptography, each transmitted bit is encoded upon a single light particle (or 'photon'). Intercepting the data randomly changes the polarisation of the light, irreversibly altering the data. This makes it impossible for a hacker to eavesdrop on the data without revealing his intervention.

There are a few problems with quantum cryptography, however. While it cannot be cracked, in the traditional sense of the word, it is susceptible to a denial-of-service-style attack. Although a hacker would still not be able to access any sensitive data, he could disrupt the key exchange and bring the system to a halt. It is also difficult to route, since the routing process itself would access, and thus disrupt the data being routed. Until this problem is solved, QC is limited to use between two dedicated points.

Some observers question the value of pursuing ever-harder encryption, pointing out that a system will be attacked at its weakest point, such as personal passwords, or software vulnerabilities. ®

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