60-Second Tech

Quantum Cryptography Comes to Smart Phones

A quantum encryption technique out of Los Alamos National Laboratory could provide smart phone security. Larry Greenemeier reports

A smart phone can do pretty much anything a PC can. But, aside from password protection, phones have very little security—a real problem with more and more people using phones for online banking and shopping.

But researchers at Los Alamos National Lab hope quantum encryption can help. Quantum encryption typically requires a lot of processing power and covers only short distances. But Los Alamos says it's developed a minitransmitter that encodes the encryption key on a single photon. They call it the QKarD transmitter, short for Quantum Smart Card. Any change in the photon’s quantum information reveals an attempted hack and cancels the transaction.

QKarD faces a few challenges. You'd still need a password or some biometric security to make sure someone doesn't use your lost or stolen phone to make their own encrypted transactions. Also, Google's Wallet mobile payment service already uses encryption. It may not be as secure as quantum encryption, but many people may decide it’s good enough. 

One thing’s for sure: we're going to need more mobile gadget security to keep a step ahead of info-hungry hackers.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]  

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