The Wall Street Journal reports: Chinese scientists have succeeded in sending specially linked pairs of light particles from space to Earth, an achievement experts in the field say gives China a leg up in using quantum technology to build an “unhackable” global communications network.
The result is an important breakthrough that establishes China as a pioneer in efforts to harness the enigmatic properties of matter and energy at the subatomic level, the experts said.
In an experiment described in the latest issue of Science, a team of Chinese researchers used light particles, or photons, sent from the country’s recently launched quantum-communications satellite to establish an instantaneous connection between two ground stations more than 1,200 kilometers (744 miles) apart.
Using the quantum properties of tiny particles to create a secure communications network is scientifically and technically demanding, according to security researchers, and China is years away from being able to build one.
If China ultimately succeeds, such a system could undermine U.S. advantages in penetrating computer networks.
The Pentagon, in an annual report on China’s military delivered to Congress last week, described the quantum satellite launch in August as a “notable advance in cryptography research.”
While the U.S. is also pursuing quantum communications, it has concentrated more attention and resources on research into quantum computing. European physicists have developed many of the theories and basic practices underlying quantum encryption, but their Chinese counterparts are better-funded with government resources.
Disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 about U.S. spying on Chinese networks rattled Beijing, and have pushed the country to bolster cybersecurity measures in a variety of ways.
“The Snowden revelations undoubtedly played a part in the drive towards quantum technologies, as it revealed the degree of sophisticated threat Chinese counterespionage and cyberdefenses were facing,” said John Costello, a fellow specializing in China and cybersecurity at the nonpartisan Washington-based think tank New America. [Continue reading…]