BBN announced yesterday that it was deploying the first wireless quantum cryptography network in Boston, enabling “keys or communications to be transmitted securely through the air as well as through its existing fiber-based network under the streets of Cambridge, Mass.,” according to this press release.
I bring this up because I’m editing a Web story on quantum cryptography, a subject that has fascinated me since I picked up Steven Levy’s book, Crypto, back in 2001.
It should come as little surprise, though, that the intricacies oftentimes sail above my head, particularly when the math is laid out before me. I can intellectually understand it, but certainly the fine points are beyond my grasp.
(As a side note: The topic got even more interesting for me after I had the opportunity to have conversations with some of the leading crypto experts in the field back in 2002 when I was doing a series of stories for Wired News. What struck me as interesting was that some of those people said if they’d have known that their work would be used for draconian Digital Rights Management schemes, they would have never gotten involved with cryptography.)
From my Wired News interview with Bruce Schneier in October 2002:
“We always thought about cryptography as being a tool to protect the little guy versus the big guy,” said Schneier. “It never occurred to us that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act would get passed.”
What strikes me about the story we are working on – and yesterday’s announcement – is wondering whether we will be revisiting the crypto issues that bubbled up under the Clinton administration, as military-grade cryptography made its way into the mainstream.
Are we headed for a Quantum Clipper Chip issue? If we are (and we are), I wonder if the outcome won’t be different this time.
The Clipper Chip was, thankfully, a forgotten experiment, but we live in a different time now, when the fear of terrorism on our shores has allowed Americans to easily turn over their civil liberties to the government in exchange for the promise of being kept safe (see: The Patriot Act).
**UPDATE 5:07, June 2**
It’s been pointed out that my logic is a bit fuzzy on this topic (normally I would argue about this, but with this topic, I have no defense. My logic is indeed fuzzy). TR wrote two stories about quantum crypto:
This article from February 2003.
This article from April 2005.
These will, I understand, clear up any confusion I’ve created.