Sensitive transmissions at the 18th National Congress in Beijing last November were reportedly carried out on quantum communications systems. (Photo/Xinhua)
The Chinese government is developing quantum communications technology to prevent confidential information from being intercepted by the United States, reports Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po.
Beijing is said to be extremely concerned that sensitive or classified information being discussed at government meetings remain prone to cyber espionage, especially given recent revelations brought to light by ex-CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed that the US National Security Agency had been hacking targets in Hong Kong and mainland China.
According to Snowden, who on Sunday fled Hong Kong to seek asylum in Ecuador, the US recently hacked into China's top Tsinghua University in January, with at least 63 computers or servers attacked on a single day.
"The NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS (texting) data," Snowden said, adding that the NSA also invaded the Hong Kong headquarters of internet service provider Pacnet.
To prevent data from being leaked to foreign countries, China has already banned handling sensitive information over the internet, with most of it being transmitted via closed networks developed exclusively for China and using core chips manufactured by domestic companies.
The level of security, however, is still regarded as insufficient, which is why Chinese leaders are turning with quantum mechanics to guarantee secure communication. Under a quantum key distribution system, two parties will be able to produce a shared random secret key known only to them, which can then be used to encrypt and decrypt messages. China plans to launch its first quantum communications satellite in 2016.
In fact, Chinese leaders have already been using quantum communications before the Snowden scandal erupted. As recently as the 18th National Congress last November, when Xi Jinping replaced Hu Jintao as the general secretary of the Communist Party, sensitive transmissions were conducted using quantum mechanics.
The problem with quantum technology at the moment, according to expert Bao Xiaohui, is that most quantum communication systems can only cover an area of around 50 kilometers at the moment, meaning certain breakthroughts need to be attained to take this form of transmission to the next level.
Bao said he believes current internet security is sufficient for the general public. No matter how secure the technology is there will always be a risk as long as there is a human element involved, he added.
Xi Jinping 習近平
Hu Jintao 胡錦濤
Bao Xiaohui 包小輝