IMI Interdisciplinary Mathematics InstituteCollege of Arts and Sciences

Quantum Mechanics and Information Security

  • May 10, 1999


All computers today are based on the laws of classical physics, which come straight from Newton's laws of motion. Quantum mechanics, however, provides a whole new way of looking at the world, explaining a host of strange microscopic effects that cannot be understood any other way. Recently, physicists and computer scientists have raised the possibility of harnessing these strange quantum effects to greatly enhance information processing power, profoundly affecting information security. On the one hand, quantum computers, if they can be built, will be able to break all public-key cryptosystems currently in popular use, including PGP, RSA, and Diffie-Hellman. On the other hand, quantum network protocols offer a surprising alternative method for unconditionally secure communication.

This talk will provide an overview of quantum computation and communication and its possibilities and limitations, both theoretical and practical. In particular, we will discuss the relative power of quantum versus classical computation, as well as quantum key distribution and bit commitment protocols.

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