China has launched a quantum-encrypted satellite that could prove a major cybersecurity breakthrough if it proves truly “hack proof.”
The implications of the recent satellite launch was came via Abu Dhabi-based The National. The experimental technology in question is the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, or QUESS satellite, which is component of a space programme under the aegis of China’s leader Xi Jinping.
“The satellite’s two-year mission will be to develop ‘hack-proof’ quantum communications, allowing users to send messages securely,” said China’s Xinhua news agency.
The QUESS satellite arrives just as the global battle heats up for domination over the lucrative market for cloud computing and securing data. On one side are Western tech powerhouses like Google, Amazon and Microsoft while on the other are Chinese players like Baidu, Huawei and Alibaba.
Amazon’s cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services, demonstrated the profit potential of the space by posting revenues of nearly $8 billion in 2015.
And profits from the cloud computing space are only expected to go up. Statista estimates global spending on cloud computing will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.4% between 2015 and 2019.
China’s QUESS technology is based on principals of quantum entanglement, an extremely complex physics theory where particles remain “entangled” regardless of distance apart. Xinhua claims that an encryption system based on such quantum entanglement principals is “impossible to wiretap, intercept or crack the information transmitted through it.”
Satellite-secured data an ambitious project
And if the experimental technology lives up to its promise of being truly hack-proof then China could have captured a major advantage in the global competition to completely secure data communication.
“There’s been a race to produce a quantum satellite, and it is very likely that China is going to win that race,” said University of Geneva physicist Nicolas Gisin. “It shows again China’s ability to commit to large and ambitious projects and to realise them.”
Fears that cloud-based data is vulnerable to cyberthreats remains an obstacle to the wider integration of cloud systems in the global economy.
“Data security is an issue everywhere and, as [customers] move from internal IT networks largely based on computers and software located inside their own facilities to a cloud model in which the firm’s employees can use cheap mobile devices to access their IT network anywhere in the world at any time, the threats to data security grow,” says Carnegie Mellon University’s Lee Branstetter. “But the shift to cloud computing will only succeed if firms believe their essential data to be reasonably secure.
“For this reason, major players are making very large investments in technology that can ensure reasonably secure access to IT networks,” adds Branstetter.