Quantum technology and how it could affect counterfeiting and phishing scams In this feature | secure pipelines | new fibre networks | benefits Quantum promise Experts are predicting that quantum technology could herald an end to the trade in fake goods and make it harder for cyber criminals to go phishing. Chris Fay looks at some developments in the field I magine a world in which cheap knock-offs no longer existed, where rogue traders could no longer make a quick buck by passing off fake branded goods as the genuine article. It sounds like a trading standards utopia, but it could soon be areality if we can all get our heads around quantum physics! Soheres your first lesson... The building block of the device on which you are reading TS Today on is the bit. Its either on or off and expressed as a one or zero, and thats it. Eight bits make a byte and about 4.7 billion bytes will fit on a DVD. Now imagine that a bit could have more than one state. It could simultaneously be a one, zero, both or something in between. Thats quantum physics and people are getting very excited about it. Researchers believe quantum technology could make it impossible to pass off a counterfeit as a genuine artefact, and could help us interact online more securely, such as when we shop, pay bills and connect with online government services. When it comes to cybercrime, it could offer new ways of ensuring the person you are dealing with is who they claim to be but, as with all technology, it will depend on how the user interacts with it. What its all about Its essential the keys are used in the right way. If they are, I think it would stop a level of cybercrime Quantum physics is the science of the very small. It works at the atomic scale and while in conventional physics, particles have a precise position and move along well-defined paths the concepts of particles and waves are combined in quantum physics. The UK government believes the technology is going to be a game changer and has put 270m into its five-year UK National Quantum Technologies Programme the fourth-largest investment of any country. It predicts that quantum technology will bring machines that can see around corners and through soil or human flesh, while revolutionising communications and security. Quantum computing will bring about an explosion in processing power, heralding supercomputers that would rewrite Moores law*. Theadage that processing power doubles every two years relies on technology getting smaller. Limited by current engineering, that principle is expected to plateau, but quantum technology will change everything. The end of fakes? HoT S PoTS Quantum Base, a spin-out company from Lancaster University, has used quantum technology to create unique, atomic-scale IDs based on the irregularities found in 2D materials such as graphene sheets. These tiny irregularities give out a unique signal, which a smartphone app can read and link back to the manufacturers database to determine whether the product is genuine. Costing fractions of a penny, the small devices could be added to everyday items such as money, credit cards, passports, luxury goods, automotive parts, gig tickets and even medicines potentially eradicating fakes that kill a million people worldwide each year. Quantum Base co-founder Phillip Speed says: When I explain it to people, I say it [the ID] is one thousandth of a human hair. Its actually much smaller than that, but its hard for people to comprehend. Its a tiny device that delivers unbreakable security that you can validate with a smartphone and, because its underpinned by quantum physics, we are able to say its unbreakable security. You cant copy, clone or simulate it. Our little devices have a thousand-million-million atoms, Speed adds. There isnt the time or the processing power in the universe to disassemble it atom by atom and then reassemble it. Quantum Base is in discussion with some of the biggest companies on the planet and the product is due to go to market mid-way through 2018. However, Speed recognises that there will always be consumers who knowingly buy fakes. other benefits While this is an issue that is probably best addressed through education, Speed says Quantum Bases technology does offer other benefits, such as the ability to check for recalls before a product is installed or a pharmaceutical pill is consumed. In addition, he says manufacturers and regulators could use the technology to build up real-time intelligence on counterfeit hot spots, so they can better target their scarce resources. It could also offer a direct channel from manufacturer to customer, which means user groups and communities of interest could be created, and manufacturers could up-sell, resell and get rapid feedback. Speed believes his product could help inform, empower and enable consumers, manufacturers and regulators across the world to work together. Cybersecurity and phishing Its a tiny device that delivers unbreakable security that you can validate with a smartphone Meanwhile, in the realms of cyberspace, a serious vulnerability in our online security is looming; theres still some debate on exactly when this will happen, but perhaps in as little as five to six years time, public key cryptography clever mathematics that is currently used to secure our online communications for everything from online banking to filling in a tax return could be compromised, because quantum computers may deliver processing power that could crack existing encryption. Researchers have been trying to build a quantum computer for 20 years, and it is set to be reality in the not-too-distant future. Thats why Professor Tim Spiller, director of the Quantum Communications Hubat York University, is working with his team to create a new quantum safe communications infrastructure systems that cant be cracked by quantum computing. Spiller describes it as a secure pipeline that uses a quantum promise that prevents other people interfering with the transaction. Were trying to develop short-range quantum communications that would work over a very modest distance in free space from your phone to some kind of receiver in the wall, Spiller explains. That receiver could then link to the government or your bank, your credit card company or your health service and you could use this short-range communication to establish shared keys. The receiver would top up your phone with these quantum keys, which could then be used like a PIN number to access a particular service. It would be a single use consumable, which is why you would need to regularly top up your phone app. Spiller says it will be like having a fresh PIN number built into your device for every new transaction, and save you having to remember dozens of passwords for different services. While Spiller doesnt claim this new technology will solve every cybersecurity problem, he does think it could help identify who you are really talking to. For example, you could go back to your bank using this guaranteed secured transaction to clarify if it was indeed your bank that emailed you, or if it was a phishing scam. But Spiller stresses that it would still depend on the proper procedures being followed and, if the user doesnt password or biometrically protect the device containing their keys, then anyone who steals that device can immediately impersonte the real owner. Spiller says: It relies on people following the rules; if you follow somebody elses rules, rather than your banks, its hard for me to see how you would get round that. I think if they do [use quantum keys] it gives you a way of guaranteeing the people on the other end really are your bank. So its essential the keys are used in the right way. If they are, I think it would stop a level of that [type of cybercrime]. When people dont follow the rules it doesnt matter what technology you give them, they will compromise security, Spiller adds. He believes the technology will make electronic transactions easier and more widespread, and could help to underpin the technology used in contactless transactions but he doesnt envisage this being the enabler to a cashless society. It makes things more traceable if you use more electronic transactions, he says. Cash is useful when you dont want to be traced. So cash will remain the exchange of choice for rogue traders In the future, Spiller hopes quantum top-up stations will be sanctioned, where people can top up their quantum keys with all providers in one go. But, he says: Its crucial that you top up uniquely with each of these [providers] because the crucial thing is the key I share with my bank only they and I know. So I wouldnt want that passed through some dodgy service provider that didnt give guarantees [about security]. You need a secure infrastructure to do this. New quantum fibre networks what Spiller describes as the secure backbone communications infrastructure are already being installed around Bristol and Cambridge. It is hoped that, by 2019, a prototype handheld device should be available to test and people will be able to trial this new technology. Once they have working demonstrations, it will then be a matter of commercialising them, with mass roll-out expected to take at least a decade. But it is likely that consumers could see quantum technology used to combat counterfeiting sooner. * Moores lawrefers to an observation made by Intel co-founder GordonMoorein 1965. He noticed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since their invention.Moores lawpredicts that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. Credits Chris Fay is a freelance journalist and To share this page, in the toolbar click on You might also like Academic research article in the October former editor-in-chief of TS Today. 2017 edition of TS Review, which will be Images: iStock.com/ sakkmesterke published in early October. HoT S PoTS Officials tackling one of the UKs most was being lost to fakers who were were found to be trading in fake goods. notorious counterfeit hot spots say they so embedded that agencies were he added. welcome any technology that allows struggling to tackle them. consumers and regulators to more easily However, Nigel Murphy, Manchester Speaking of the proposed new technology, Murphy said: We do City Council executive member for everything in our power to combat the neighbourhoods, said a large number trade in counterfeit items and aim to thrust into the spotlight after the citys of operations had taken place in the hot prevent them from reaching the public. Cheetham Hill, Strangeways, area was spot over the past year. identify counterfeits. Manchester City Council was named the counterfeit capital of the UK in 2016. A 2016 Intellectual Property Office (IPO) report said millions of pounds Any new method, such as the use A wide variety of goods have been of quantum technology, which would seized and, where possible, businesses allow both us and consumers to more have been prosecuted, with more than easily identify counterfeit goods should 40 companies being evicted after they be welcomed.