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China's Quantum Leap Toward Unhackable Communications

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It was early Tuesday in China when the world’s first quantum-communications satellite was sent into orbit from a center in the Gobi Desert. It could the beginning of a new hack-proof communications era, scientists and security experts say. If it is, China will be at the forefront of it all.

“There’s been a race to produce a quantum satellite, and it is very likely that China is going to win that race,” said quantum physicist Nicolas Gisin, from the University of Geneva. “It shows again China’s ability to commit to large and ambitious projects and to realize them.”

While China isn't the only one running the quantum race, the resources allocated to research and development have put it ahead of the U.S., Europe, Japan and other countries seeking to exploit the vastly unexplored properties of subatomic particles.

Although the Chinese government didn't disclose how much it spent on research of the actual building of the satellite, it did say it had allocated $101 billion to basic research in 2015, up from $1.9 billion ten years earlier. This figure compares with the $200 million the U.S. government allots to quantum research.

Wall Street Journal explained that according to experts, China’s investment in quantum research is probably being partly driven by the country’s fear of the U.S.’ cyber capabilities. Cybersecurity specialist John Costello “also noted that U.S. institutions are researching how to build powerful quantum computers theoretically capable of shattering the math-based encryption now used world-wide for secure communication.” However, the nature of quantum communications are defensive; so, no need to fear they will be used to hack the U.S. any time soon.

 

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