Could Quantum Computing Mean Ultimate Mobile Payment Security?

March 31, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

Ever since mobile payments got started, the biggest concern was security. That was the same problem shopping online in general had, really, long before the smartphone was even a thing.

Though security has come a long way since the earliest days of mobile payments, there are still a lot of users worried about just how safe that payment app really is. A new device that’s part of an Oxford University study might help, though, thanks to quantum computing.

The device in question, which is still somewhat in the prototype phase according to reports, was developed as part of a team effort with Bay Photonics and Nokia contributing to the effort. It essentially generates a cryptographic key on demand, which is sent to a payment terminal from a mobile device.

The system can also detect unusual activity, like signal eavesdropping, and immediately shut down communications should such activity be detected, essentially foiling a hacking mid-hack by cutting off the flow of information. Nothing to find means no hacking risk.

Since the system depends on quantum computing, hacking becomes extremely difficult; a quantum signal is effectively altered once it is observed outside of the immediate connection, and the altered signal becomes effectively useless.

It’s not particularly easy to set up, either, as even changes in the pulse rate of the hand holding the device can alter the signal, a point the group is already working to work around.

This is a very clever approach to the issue, though getting a handle on quantum computing is likely the hardest part about setting up a system like this. Using something like quantum computing that’s so barely understood will likely make it a potent anti-hacking tool because very few hackers will likely understand much about quantum computing to begin with.

It’s almost like the World War II code talkers concept; it was one thing to break a transmission code, but then anyone spying on the transmission would have to figure out what was being said from the original Navajo in which it was sent.

Will quantum computing be the next great security advance? That’s a point only time will reveal, but it’s clear that this is the most extensive new solution tried yet.