China launches first quantum communications satellite

On Monday, China launched the first-ever quantum communications satellite.

The spacecraft, launching from the Jiuquan satellite launch centre in the Gobi Desert, is called QUESS (Quantum Experiments at Space Scale).

QUESS’s purpose is to help develop an unhackable communications system.

“In its two-year mission, QUESS is designed to establish ‘hack-proof’ quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground,” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

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Quantum communication is in its early phase, but it does it does boast ultra-high security as a quantum photon can neither be separated nor duplicated.

It is near-impossible to intercept data transmitted through it.

While this data may be impossible to hack, there is a potential weakness with the terminal this data is connected to, as Dwayne Melancon, chief technology officer for Tripwire, points out.

“There is a high likelihood that this satellite communication system will be connected to a traditional, terrestrial network at some point. If that happens, the game is over – even if the data cannot be intercepted from the quantum satellite, it will likely be vulnerable while it sits on the terrestrial network.”

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Networks, as have been heavily reported in recent years, are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Although groundbreaking, quantum communication as it stands is unlikely to aid cyber defence systems back on Earth, in the immediate future anyway.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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