Can Quantum Physics Help Keep Your Credit Card Safe?


NIST has developed a new security method using lasers and crystals.

Researchers at the National Institute for Standards and Technology have developed a new way to generate random numbers that could help keep citizens' information safe.

To the layman, this might just seem like a fun math trick, but generating random numbers is key to the encryption that occurs across the web, such as securing online purchases. Coming up with brand new way to generate complex random numbers is a boon for your security.

"Our quantum source and protocol is like a fail-safe. We're sure that no one can predict our numbers," said NIST mathematician Peter Bierhorst in an announcement on Wednesday.

So what's NIST's process? It all begins with a laser, which hits a crystal and generates a pair of photons. The photons are entangled (that's where the quantum part comes in). These photons are measured, which produces the string of actually random numbers.

NIST currently offers a service called the NIST Randomness Beacon. The agency also plans to make this new source for completely random numbers available to the public.

To learn more about the science behind this technology, NIST wrote a paper for the April 12 issue of Nature, detailing their new method.