Fraud-proof Credit Cards Possible with Quantum Physics

by Tim Sloane 0

A team of researchers from the Netherlands claim to have createda physical “key” that can’t be forged and a related fraud-proof mechanism forauthenticating that physical “key” using the quantum mechanical behavior oflight.

The paper published in the The Optical Society’s (OSA) newjournal Optica,indicates that the team of researchers from two universities in the Netherlandshave discovered how to create an optical key that can be embedded on a paymentcard and a mechanism for authenticating that key that is fraud proof:

“Asreported in The Optical Society’s (OSA) new high-impact journal Optica, a teamof researchers from the Netherlands has harnessed the power of quantummechanics to create a fraud-proof method for authenticating a physical “key”that is virtually impossible to thwart.

Thisinnovative security measure, known as Quantum-Secure Authentication, canconfirm the identity of any person or object, including debit and credit cards,even if essential information (like the complete structure of the card) hasbeen stolen. It uses the unique quantum properties of light to create a securequestion-and-answer (Q&A) exchange that cannot be “spoofed” or copied.”

The press release includes this description of how thesolution operates:

“‘Single photons of light have very special properties that seem to defy normalbehavior,’ said Pepijn Pinkse, a researcher from the University of Twente andlead author on the paper.’When properly harnessed, they can encode informationin such a way that prevents attackers from determining what the information is.’

Theprocess works by transmitting a small, specific number of photons onto aspecially prepared surface on a credit card and then observing the tell-talepattern they make. Since — in the quantum world — a single photon can existin multiple locations, it becomes possible to create a complex pattern with afew photons, or even just one.

Dueto the quantum properties of light, any attempt by a hacker to observe theQ&A exchange would, as physicists say, collapse the quantum nature of thelight and destroy the information being transmitted. This makes Quantum-SecureAuthentication unbreakable regardless of any future developments intechnology.”

So the two aspects that Mercator would like to receivegreater clarity on includes the suitability to purpose for both the materielthe light pattern “key” is etched into and the reader that modulates thephotons shined onto the key to establish its authenticity. Or perhaps more importantly, who will absorbthe cost of deploying new cards and new POS devices on a worldwide basis?


Overview by Tim Sloane, VP, Payments Innovation for Mercator Advisory Group

Read full press release