What is quantum encryption? It’s no silver bullet, but could improve security

Quantum encryption, also called quantum cryptography, applies principles of quantum mechanics to encrypt messages in a way that it is never read by anyone outside of the intended recipient. It takes advantage of quantum’s multiple states, coupled with its “no change theory,” which means it cannot be unknowingly interrupted.

Encryption has been around since the beginning of time, from the Assyrians protecting their trade secret of manufacturing pottery to Germans safeguarding military secrets with Enigma. Today, it’s under threat more than ever before. That’s why some people are looking to quantum encryption to protect data in the future.

Here’s how encryption works on “traditional” computers: Binary digits (0’s and 1’s) are systematically sent from one place to another, and then deciphered with a symmetric (private) or asymmetric (public) key. Symmetric key ciphers like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) use the same key for encrypting a message or file, while asymmetric ciphers like RSA use two linked keys — private and public. The public key is shared, but the private key is kept secret to decrypt the information.

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