By Manuel Cereijo

MAY, 2002

Central to the techniques are the strange laws of quantum mechanics that govern the universe on the smallest scale, and the ability to exploit physics on this scale, which has generated huge interest in Cuba, with the development of a new nanotechnology research and development facilities. The begining stages of the project were coordinated by Castro Diaz Balart. The quantum properties of photons could make encrypted messages absolutely secure.

It is known that Cuba has experimented already sending encrypted messages through the air over 100 Kms., during days and nights. Cuba expects to be able to send through its Bejucal base these ultra-secret messages by the end of this year or early 2003. Of course, encryption of transmitted data is just one part of keeping information secret. It is easier for a would-be interceptor to compromise other aspects of the overall process that are much more vulnerable than encryption, like hacking the sender's hard drive before the data is encrypted for transmission.

The genius of quantum cryptography is that it solves the problem of key distribution. This ability comes directly from the way quantum particles such as photons behave in nature and the fact that the information these particles carry can take on this behavior. Essentially two technologies make quantum key distribution possible: the equipment for creating photons and that for detecting them. The ideal source is a so-called photon gun that fires a single photon on demand. This is an area where Cuba research and development is highly concentrated and advanced. The facilities, and the talent, are Cubans. But the financing is from where?

There is work currently going on testing a portable system that can fit in the back of a small trailer and works, on a clear night, over 65 Kms. The cost? Some $90,000. There is work being done on a system that could, on a clear night, beam single photons to orbiting satellites, thereby securing their transmissions. However, where progress has been greatest and where most experimental work has been focused, is on optical-fiber-based communications. ETECSA, the Cuban/Italian telephone company, has just finished the installation of a secret fiber optic ring strictly for military use, around Bejucal, Wajay, Guines, and La Habana. So far the limitation is in the need to use repeaters. The maximum length obtained has been 60 Kms. If distances could be increased, this will be quite a milestone.

Cuba's Bejucal base, which started full operation on January 1998, poses a real threat to the national security of the United States.


Manuel Cereijo

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