Quantum Key Distribution: the new frontier of Security

Research & Innovation Manager

May 14, 2018 – The conveniences of widespread connectivity and the cloud have put us at more risk than ever of getting hacked. Cloud data protection and regulatory compliance are two driving reasons for thinking of encryption and encryption key management strategies.

Encryption encodes a message or information in order to make it accessible to authorized parties only that can easily decrypt the message with the key provided by the originator. It is in principle possible to decrypt the message without possessing the key, but, for a well-designed encryption scheme, considerable computational resources and skills are required. Consequently, within the cryptographic scheme, the weakest point is the distribution of the key.

The new frontier of Security in Information and Communication Sciences and Technologies is the Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).

QKD is used to distribute a cryptographic key that is guaranteed to be secure. In fact, the fundamental aspect of quantum mechanics that measuring a quantum system disturbs the system, generates an important and unique property of QKD, i.e. the ability of the two communicating users to detect the presence of any third party trying to get the secret key. Then, the cryptographic key can be used by any chosen encryption algorithm to encrypt (and decrypt) a message, which can then be transmitted over a standard communication channel.

The discussion now regards how to move QKD from research to the innovation, moving quantum cryptography from lab to market available security.

International research projects in Quantum Technologies (QT) suggest that we can secure communications with QKD, but some limitations still prevent from adopting it in the real world.

During the QuantERA Projects’ Launch Event in Bucharest, Romania, Italtel participated to the Panel discussion about Fostering Industry Connections at the Scientific & Poster Session. Italtel presented the industrial point of view about QKD, proposing the requirements and indicating the challenges, that Quantum Research and Innovative Industries are invited to jointly address in the next years.

Italtel identifies 3 main needs that research should focus on:

  1. Point-to-Multipoint QKD networking, because at the moment QKD supports point-to-point connections only.
  2. Trusted intermediate nodes, needed to create a wide area network overcoming the current QKD limitation of just 20-50 Km distance.
  3. Mix key distribution and data transmission over the same optical network, because QKD Bit-rate is 100 kb/s while data transmission speed over optical fiber is many orders of magnitude higher.

In addition, according to the big picture of Italtel’s vision, Research and Innovative Industries shall keep the following goals in mind:

  • Integration of classic cryptography with QKD
  • Secure Encryption Key management across all protocol layers
  • Device cost reduction

in order to make the adoption of QKD possible in the European communication scenario.

Surely, Quantum revolution is going to transform Security in Information and Communication Sciences and Technologies and a multidisciplinary approach is required to move Quantum Physic from labs to everyday experience.

Italtel, as System Integrator and Technology provider, can give a relevant contribution to the design and development of a multi-country, multi-technology QKD network, managing the smooth evolution of current security solutions towards innovative ones.