Swiss Call New Vote Encryption System 'Unbreakable'

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When voters in the Swiss state of Geneva go to the polls for an upcoming national election, their ballot results will be transmitted to the capitol using quantum encryption technology that officials call "unbreakable." Data will be sent via photons over a fiber optic line. If anyone tries to intercept the information, the photons will not reach their destination, and operators will instantly learn of the breach.

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A new "unbreakable" encryption method will be keep votes safe for citizens in the Swiss canton (state) of Geneva in the country's upcoming national elections, officials said Thursday.

The city-state will use quantum technology to encrypt election results as they are sent to the capital on Oct. 21, said Nicolas Gisin of the University of Geneva.

'Explode Like a Soap Bubble'

A computer in Geneva, provided by the company Id Quantique, will fire photons, or particles of light, down a fiber-optic link to a receiver 62 miles away.

If anybody wanted to eavesdrop on the line, they would need to intercept the photons, which means they won't make it to the destination. The operators of the line will then know that someone is listening in.

"If anyone tries to even read the message it will explode like a soap bubble," said Gisin, the physics professor who led the team that developed the technology.

Conventional fiber-optic communications uses vast numbers of photons, and pays no attention to their individual quantum properties. It's possible to eavesdrop on such lines simply by making a bend in the fiber and leaching off some of the light.

Quantum Cryptography

Geneva's secure line is one of the first public uses of quantum cryptography.

In the U.S., MagiQ Technologies has been selling quantum cryptography equipment since late 2003 to government and corporate customers.

Bob Gelfond, the company's chief executive, said he could not reveal who the clients are, or for what purposes the equipment is used.

© 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
© 2007 ECT News Network. All rights reserved.

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