Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

Eavesdropper Steals Quantum Crypto Keys

So-called "perfect eavesdropper" steals keys while they're being negotiated, without alerting users.

10 Massive Security Breaches
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: 10 Massive Security Breaches
The research group's eavesdropping of quantum cryptography key generation systems didn't happen overnight. The group began its research in 2007, when members started testing how common, single photon detectors react to bright light. In July 2009, the group conducted experiments, in which it found that its eavesdropper, dubbed Eve, could eavesdrop on its receiver, dubbed Bob, without Bob knowing.

Later, the team found that commercial quantum cryptography systems could likely be compromised in the same manner. They detailed those findings last year, in a paper published by Nature Photonics. This latest research, however, actually demonstrated the attack in a practical setting, against a fully deployed research system. Going forward, the research team hopes to build the "perfect countermeasure" to the attack.

How useful is quantum cryptography for key generation purposes?

Security expert Bruce Schneier, chief security technology officer of BT, has called it "unbelievably cool, in theory, and nearly useless in real life," because he sees no commercial value. "It's not that quantum cryptography might be insecure; it's that cryptography is already sufficiently secure," he said.

Makarov, however, disputes Schneier's conclusions. First, he said, quantum cryptography provides a way to encrypt information indefinitely, despite advances in traditional cryptography. "If one wants to protect today's secrets from future advances in cryptanalysis, quantum cryptography offers a solution," he said. "Advances that compromise classical cryptography can happen with little warning, and then an attacker who recorded today's classically encrypted secrets can crack them open retroactively. In contrast, today's quantum cryptography cannot be eavesdropped by a future technology."

For example, encrypted network links currently also provide a single point of failure for attackers to exploit, especially given the difficulty of accessing physically secured data centers. "The backbone link and its encryption already cost the organization a lot," he said. "Does it make sense to add another layer of security insurance to this potential single point of failure, by adding quantum key distribution, in addition to the classical key distribution, at a comparatively small extra cost? I certainly think so."

Today's commercial cryptography key generation systems combine traditional key generation with quantum cryptography key generation. Accordingly, they cost more than traditional systems alone. So, when would you use the technology? Typically, it's most useful for "applications where you have very critical data, or data with a very long lifetime," said Ribordy, because as noted, the data can't be decrypted by some future code-breaking technology. "We have commercial customers that have decided to deploy this technology, because they've decided they need the additional security."

Quantum cryptography does face some limits. For starters, it only works with fiber optic networks. ID Quantique's Ribordy also said that commercial quantum cryptography key generation systems currently have a range of about 100 kilometers (62 miles), although the world record--achieved in the lab--is about 250 kilometers (155 miles). Currently, as distance increases, bitrate decreases. The "holy grail" in the future, he said, would be quantum repeaters, able to maintain bitrates over any distance.

In the new, all-digital Dark Reading supplement: What industry can teach government about IT innovation and efficiency. Also in this issue: Federal agencies have to shift from annual IT security assessments to continuous monitoring of their risks. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

2 of 2
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 10/27/2020
Chinese Attackers' Favorite Flaws Prove Global Threats, Research Shows
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  10/27/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-28
** DISPUTED ** SonarQube allows remote attackers to discover cleartext SMTP, SVN, and GitLab credentials via the api/settings/values URI. NOTE: reportedly, the vendor's position is "it is the administrator's responsibility to configure it."
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-28
An XSS vulnerability in the auto-complete function of the description field (for new or edited transactions) in Firefly III before 5.4.5 allows the user to execute JavaScript via suggested transaction titles. NOTE: this is exploitable only in a non-default configuration where Content Security Policy...
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-28
Gophish before 0.11.0 allows the creation of CSV sheets that contain malicious content.
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-28
Cross Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability in Gophish before 0.11.0 via the Host field on the send profile form.
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-28
Cross Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability in Gophish through 0.10.1 via a crafted landing page or email template.