COMMENT: Happy New Year all — I pulled this one out of the internet news data torrent, just to allow some focus on what the article reports, and, perhaps more importantly, what it implies and portends. In my experience, Japan’s mainstream Yomiuri Shimbun seems to have pretty deep source connections into the Japanese government, and it occasionally writes articles about sensitive issues which serve as “pop-up-flares” to send signals to the Northeast Asia neighborhood, and also gauge/measure domestic public reaction. Nevertheless, the spook world of cryptography is normally a hidden one, and rarely sees the light of day …. so, it is pretty surprising to see the amount of detail openly explained below…
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== Govt plans quantum cryptography to protect secret communications
(December 27, 2017; Yomiuri Shimbun)
The government next fiscal year plans to begin researching a space-based system that uses quantum cryptography communication, which is considered impossible to tap or hack, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
Demonstration experiments on transmissions using quantum cryptography via satellite and other means are planned for fiscal 2022. The government aims to make the system fit for practical use by fiscal 2027. Competition over secrecy protection is heating up among military superpowers. In June, China announced it had conducted a successful basic test in space.
In addition to protecting private communications, the government hopes it can use the technology for diplomatic and national security purposes, such as at diplomatic establishments abroad and with far-off ships and aircraft.
Quantum cryptography communication is a technology that applies the properties of quantum mechanics (see below). A satellite that receives instructions from Earth sends information including a “key” by a laser beam of light particles (photons) to a sender on the ground. The sender then uses this key to encrypt its data, which the recipient decodes using a copy of the key it also receives from the satellite. The keys are abolished after being used only once. Attempts to intercept the transmission of the key leave traces, thus helping to ensure the safety of communications.
The government has requested about ¥300 million in its draft budget for fiscal 2018 to begin developing a high-powered laser to be loaded onto a satellite. The vendor would be chosen in a public offering. In fiscal 2022, transmission tests are to be performed by either launching a satellite or by putting the laser on aircraft capable of high-altitude flights. The goal is to have a system that can be put into practical use by fiscal 2027.
Maintaining the secrecy of communications is an important concern at the national level. In 2013, a former employee of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency revealed that the United States had been intercepting the communications of countries around the world, which became an issue.
Current cryptography communication is based on complex combinations of prime numbers. These can be decoded using prime factorization, so using larger numbers makes them more difficult to decrypt. As computer processing speeds increase, however, so does the risk of decryption, which is why there is an urgent need for quantum cryptography communication.
NTT Corp., Toshiba Corp. and other private companies have already made a strong effort to develop the technology. Encryption is becoming more common in everyday life, such as in credit card transactions on the internet and cellular phones. However, these technologies mainly transmit data through ground-based optical fibers. Direct transmissions are only possible in the 100-kilometer range, and data is at risk of leaking from repeaters.
Satellite-based quantum cryptography communication systems can directly transmit data several thousand kilometers. Although research and development in Japan is mainly conducted by private companies, many now believe state-sponsored initiatives are needed, a source with government ties said.
In July, the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, which is under the jurisdiction of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, successfully sent quantum transmissions via a micro-miniature satellite. However, it was said that the amount of quantum information that could be transmitted to the ground was insufficient.
— Quantum mechanics
A set of physical laws that govern the submicroscopic world, such as photons and electrons. In the world of quantum mechanics, photons and electrons change when they are observed. Quantum cryptography uses this property to determine whether data has been intercepted or hacked by checking for changes to the photons, which makes communications more secure.