In a pair of interesting announcements this morning, ADVA offered a glimpse of what is to come in the realm of quantum-powered network security.
The University of Cambridge is using ADVA’s FSP 3000 as part of the first ‘quantum network’ in the UK along with Toshiba and the Quantum Communications Hub. Data on the network is encrypted via quantum key distribution, and the same fiber is used for both sending the data and for generating/distributing the quantum keys. I’m no quantum expert, but the idea is that by transmitting keys via quantum states, any attempt to eavesdrop or otherwise mess with the process would disturb the photons and thus alert network operators. The network, which operates within the Cambridge metro area, can now accept live data in quantity, getting us one step closer to commercializing the technology.
Meanwhile, in a related project with a set of research and eduction networks (Broadnet, GÉANT, NORDUnet, PSNC and UNINETT), ADVA’s gear was part of a 100Gbps demo spanning some 2,800km between Poznan, Poland and Trondheim, Norway. This one didn’t use quantum key distribution, but rather post-quantum public-key encryption based on a Niederreiter variant. That’s an algorithmic approach that doesn’t require changes to the network but just to the endpoints, and thus is probably even closer to reality.
One worry out there now is that when quantum computering goes mainstream, existing encryption techniques will become easily crackable. Thus, the earlier quantum security techniques become available, the less recent will be the data that hackers could then hypothetically decrypt. Of course, all that assumes quite a bit embedded in the use of the word ‘quantum’, which feels like it’s becoming a bit of an umbrella buzzword in the media. Hopefully we will start to understand this stuff better before it goes live.
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