Quantum Cryptography

Quantum cryptography is the science of exploiting quantum mechanical properties to perform cryptographic tasks. The best known example of quantum cryptography is quantum key distribution which offers an information-theoretically secure solution to the key exchange problem. Except for post-quantum cryptography (see below), as of 2017, currently used popular public-key encryption and signature schemes (e.g., elliptic-curve cryptography (ECC) and RSA) can be broken by quantum adversaries. Quantum cryptography uses Heisenberg's uncertainty principle formulated in 1927, and the no-cloning theoremfirst articulated by Wootters and Zurek and Dieks in 1982. Werner Heisenberg discovered one of the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics: "At the instant at which the position of the electron is known, its momentum therefore can be known only up to magnitudes which correspond to that discontinuous change; thus, the more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known, and conversely.Quantum cryptography was proposed first by Stephen Wiesner. The most well known and developed application of quantum cryptography is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD)which is the task of generating a private key shared between two parties using a (completely insecure) quantum channel and an authenticated (but not private) classical channel (e.g., a telephone line). The private key can then be used to encrypt messages that are sent over an insecure classical channel (such as a conventional internet connection).

Unlike traditional cryptography, where the security is usually based on the fact that an adversary is unable to solve a certain mathematical problem, QKD achieves security through the laws of quantum physics. More precisely, it is based on the fact that an eavesdropper, trying to intercept the quantum communication, will inevitably leave traces which can thus be detected. In this case, the QKD protocol aborts the generation of the key. The security of quantum key distribution can be proven mathematically without imposing any restrictions on the abilities of an eavesdropper, something not possible with classical key distribution. This is usually described as "unconditional security", although there are some minimal assumptions required, including that the laws of quantum mechanics apply and that Alice and Bob are able to authenticate each other, i.e. Eve should not be able to impersonate Alice or Bob as otherwise a man-in-the-middle attack would be possible.

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