Can quantum computing be used to tackle payment card fraud?

There was an excellent piece in the Telegraph yesterday about how researchers at HP's labs in Bristol have harnessed the power of quantum physics to make online payment card transactions more secure.

The report comes after crypto guru Bruce Schneier - in a surprising outburst late last week - slagged off quantum computing encryption as being little more than useless in the modern IT world.

The HP guys have linked quantum computing with one-time-pad/key system developed was back in 1917 and reckons the two technologies can be distilled into a keyring device that generates a one-time TAN (Transaction Authorisation Number) for each online transaction.

Keith Harrison, a cryptographer with HP Laboratories, is quoted by the Telegraph as saying that, as quantum computing becomes commonplace, hackers will use the technology to crack conventional encryption.

"We have to be thinking about solutions to the problems that quantum computing will pose," he told the Telegraph. "The average consumer is going to want to know their own transactions and daily business is secure.

"One way of doing this is to use a one time pad essentially lists of random numbers where one copy of the numbers is held by the person sending the information and an identical copy is held by the person receiving the information. These are completely unbreakable when used properly," he explained.

The critical feature of quantum computing is the unique fact that, if someone tampers with an information feed between two parties, then the nature of the quantum feed changes.

This makes eavesdropping impossible.

And that's the crucial feature that quantum computing brings to the table. Coupled with one-time-PADs, that would make online transactions utterly secure. Now that's in interesting thought...