Quantum Safe Certification

Quantum security on credit cards

The so-called “plastic money” facilitates our lives and transactions, especially in the age of the Internet. At the same time, however, it proves to be particularly vulnerable: as long as the officials try to constantly improve and step up security measures, fraudsters seem to find ways to break them. Now a group of Dutch scientists have announced that they have developed a credit card authentication system that is inviolable due to its volatile quantum qualities.

The new system, called Quantum Secure Authentication or Quantum Secure Certification, uses quantum photon properties to create a unique “signature” that is based on the “question and answer” exchange and can not be “read” or copied. In a related publication in the Optica Inspectorate, researchers at the University of Twente report that their method can be used to secure the authentication of any kind of electronic card – eg credit or debit cards, but also identity cards, medical health care or social security – even when key information is stolen from it. If, for example, someone has managed to copy the full structure of the card, Quantum Secure Authentication is able to distinguish the authentic from the fake card.

The “signature” of the photons

A new credit card system uses the quantum properties of photons to create a unique “signature” that is based on the “question and answer” exchange and can not be “read” or copied.

Conventional cards with magnetic tape are easily copied. To enhance security recently, banks have begun to issue so-called “smart cards” that have a microprocessor for authentication. However, as complicated as the security code and any additional measures that have been taken, once one has access to the information stored on the card, it can copy and use it.

Dutch researchers solve this problem by storing the “questionnaires” needed to identify the card in photons. Due to the quantum properties of the photons, which allow them to be in multiple places at the same time, the exchange of queries required to make a transaction is impossible to replicate or reproduce without instantaneous perception.

“Individual photons have very distinct properties that seem to be inconsistent with normal behavior,” said Peeping Pinkse, a researcher at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and lead author of the study. “When properly collected they can encode information in a way that prevents attackers from determining what that information is.”

Games with quanta

The procedure described by scientists in their study works as follows: a small and specific number of photons is emitted onto a surface of the credit card which has been specially prepared and then the pattern created is recorded. Since, based on the principles of Quantum Mechanics, a photon may exist simultaneously at many points, in this way a very complex pattern can be produced using a very small number of photons or even a single photon.

Because of the quantum properties of light, as the researchers point out, any attempt by a hacker to observe the interchange of questioning on photons will make their quantum nature collapse and destroy the information. This is why the Quantum Secure Authentication system is inviolable – and will remain inviolable for any development that may occur in technology in the future.

Implementation in practice

In order to work in practice, the system requires the application to credit cards of a very thin layer of white paint containing millions of nanoparticles. Using laser photons will be projected into the dye: they will collide with the nanoparticles – like the balls on the flipper, researchers say – and returning to the surface will create a specific pattern that will also be its “identity” card.

As the photons emitted into the dye will be “quantum”, the pattern will appear to contain much more information – or dots of light – than it actually does. However, any attempt to “read” illegally will destroy the quantum properties of light and along with them much of the information contained in the motif.

“It’s like throwing ten balls of bowling into the ground and creating 200 marks of impact with them,” explained Mr. Pingche. “It’s impossible to know exactly what information has been sent – which pattern has been created on the ground – just picking up the ten balls. But if he tries to observe them as they fall they will ruin the whole system. ” The researcher believes that this new quantum security method, in addition to any kind of electronic cards, can also be used to protect buildings and cars.


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