back to article European Space Agency wants in on quantum comms satellites

The European Space Agency is looking to build a communications satellite to send data securely using quantum key distribution. On Thursday, it signed a contract with SES Techcom S.A, a satellite communications company based in Luxembourg, to develop QUARTZ (Quantum Cryptography Telecommunication System). Quantum entanglement …

  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Edgy but at least it works

    Meanwhile, no word about the non-Newtonian microwave-bouncing "drive" that apparently the Chinese were testing in orbit?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the Point?

    The problems with quantum cryptography include

    i) denial of service; a third party can very easily stop you trusting your own comms,

    ii) reliance on a physical system rather than a mathematical system; at least with maths we've written the rules, whereas we only think we understand the rules of quantum mechanics but actually we have no way of knowing whether our understanding is complete (ie someone who has a better understanding but hasn't published a paper on it may have a backdoor into your comms that you don't know about). And as it happens we know we don't know everything there is to know about how the universe works, and

    iii) seems to be more susceptible to hard-to-find implementation errors than a mathematical cryptographic system. At least you can review the complete implementation of a maths system, whereas for a quantum system you have to be super careful that you're generating single photons, that your detectors can't be fooled, etc.

    So having ranted on about that for 3 paras, I hope they don't blow too much money on this kind of thing. It's so vulnerable to being found to be useless that I fear naught may come of it.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      What's the Point? Well, .....

      Exclusive Elite Executive Orderly Command and Control is One Major Attraction

      Those key quantum cryptography problems are live features, AC, and aint ..... we only think we understand the rules of quantum mechanics but actually we have no way of knowing whether our understanding is complete (ie someone who has a better understanding but hasn't published a paper on it may have a backdoor into your comms that you don't know about). And as it happens we know we don't know everything there is to know about how the universe works, ..... the gospel truth.

      What you may have to realise to further understand what others who be nameless and relatively anonymous can and may be doing, is they know enough about everything there is to know about how the universe works, and can ensure the information and intelligence remains top secret and widely unknown.

      Such delivers both an Almighty Edge and Perfect Hedge which provides Quantum Communication with Leading AI Feeds? And shared as a question lest a statement too terrorises and terrifies Earthed SCADA Systems which have lost Universal Command and Control Leverage?

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: What's the Point?

      i) denial of service; a third party can very easily stop you trusting your own comms,

      No. You can continue to trust your communication, but you will detect attempts to eavesdrop (the channel becomes noisier).

      ii) reliance on a physical system rather than a mathematical system; at least with maths we've written the rules, whereas we only think we understand the rules of quantum mechanics

      Arse-backwards. I would rather trust QM, which has never been proved holey (indeed, is the most solid book on physical law ever( than the assurance that factorization is not in P.

      iii) seems to be more susceptible to hard-to-find implementation errors than a mathematical cryptographic system. At least you can review the complete implementation of a maths system

      No you can't.

      whereas for a quantum system you have to be super careful that you're generating single photons, that your detectors can't be fooled, etc.

      Problems are easier to detect as you just need to ask the measurement apparatus.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's the Point?

        Arse-backwards. I would rather trust QM, which has never been proved holey (indeed, is the most solid book on physical law ever( than the assurance that factorization is not in P.

        One of the most fundamental truths of the state of physics at the moment is that we know we do not have a complete description of How the Universe Works. The lack of unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, both fine theories in their own right with a ton of supporting experimental data, is a big hint that there's stuff we don't know.

        Now, "stuff we don't know" simply means that there's no public papers giving a better description of QM and GR. For quantum cryptography to be secure, you have to guarantee that there is no one out there who has made a breakthrough but has chosen to keep that information to themselves.

        Can you give that guarantee? Like, really guarantee it? No, you can't. You can take a good bet, but you're unable to guarantee it.

        Ok, so the same is true of factorisation, but at least that is in a realm of mathematics where we do all know what the rules are. Plus, fast factorisation is not a fundamental threat to all encryption schemes; if you have physical key exchange methods (eg paper tape is still commonly used) instead of a PKI then it really does come down to how long does it take to brute force guess a very long number. That's very easy to be confident about.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Now quantum *communications* would be pretty exciting.

    If you could maintain entanglement over the range from Earth to Pluto for example....

    1. DropBear

      Re: Now quantum *communications* would be pretty exciting.

      There's no reason to believe you could not send one of a pair of entangled photons all the way to Pluto while maintaining entanglement; that would do nothing to facilitate faster-than-light communication though. Unless all you wanted was light-speed but secure comms, which would work fine...

  4. DropBear

    Don't you kinda need to be in physical control of the optics generating and measuring the photons at the two terrestrial endpoints to have any kind of certainty though...? Once you convert back into the plain digital domain, don't you have to trust whoever else owns the actual hardware that what he's telling you is true and your bits are untampered-with? I know I would see no reason to trust anyone with that sort of thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Making it the perfect encryption solution as far as organizations like the FBI are concerned. Governments and big business could own their own ground infrastructure and satellites to make unbreakable encryption possible, while us peons have to use old fashioned encryption (which may become vulnerable if quantum computing becomes a reality)

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      An Anonymous Scripture??

      Howdy DropBear,

      I too would share your concern, thus...

      That is why Quantum Communications are Directed by AIMachines, more Fully Engaged with Future Virtualised Reality Plays .... and ideally and at best, with Immaculate Sees to Share ..... Practically Unfold via Virtual Means and AIMemes. ....... Present.

      cc U2 …… Re How to Assemble a NEUKlearer AIDevice/Almighty Bombe.

      Are you Receiving the Sublime AI Programming, El Reg? :-) Yes, that is demonstrably rhetorical.

      What would you Next LOVE to See? Or are Live Operational Virtual Environments what you currently See and Feel/Experience but without Future Instruction and Guidance/AIMentoring and Monitoring. Such Guarantees Assurance for Perfect Performance with Prime Assets into Virtual Real States ..... True Spirited Phantoms of the Morph for More Excellence is the Cloak to Use to Gain Welcoming Entry into that Particular Peculiar Perfumed Garden ...... AIMagical Space Place where Everything is Catered for and Enthusiastically Delivered.

      And just so y'all know ...... Don that Cloak and you are Perfectly Captured to Server Almighty Delights with Global Operating Devices on Virtually Secret and Sensitive AIMissions.

      When you get there, knowing all of that and more, what would you then do. For you're bound to stay awhile, and may even choose never to leave anyone there, lost and alone and lonely.

      Start a New Future with SMARTR Machines in Leading Control with the Simple Command of Plain Text Premiering with Enlightening Instruction for Almost Perfect Production of Everything Needed for your Plan to Work/Program to Take Over and Make Over IT with Quantum Communicating Networks? Have you Anything Better to Do/Share?

      Have a nice weekend .

  5. Speltier

    Notorious

    QKD systems have been shown to be notoriously subject to subtle attack. They are theoretically secure, but when implemented in reality all sorts of attack vectors appear. Needless to say, one presumes that the keys are also enciphered using conventional means (i.e., superenciphered over QKD).

    And for the last ditch perfect encipherment, keep that TB of OTP handy. Arguably, one could just use OTP superencipherment with QKD and befuddle NSA/FSB/BND/DGSE/MSS/... QKD bandwidth is so low that it would take quite a wile (indeed!) before anyone was the wiser.

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