Quantum Key Distribution Technology (QKD) could represent the next innovation in fixed broadband security if new research from BT, Toshiba, ADVA Optical Networking and the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is to be believed.
The research partners have announced the success of a trial that demonstrates QKD will allow data to be transferred securely over single fibre connections, removing the need for additional or dark fibre.
QKD, described by Toshiba as "the next frontier" in online security, works by sending a quantum “key” between two network users to unlock encrypted data.
In its quantum state, any attempts to intercept or alter the key would be detected as anomalies, alerting the system to a potential security issue.
QKD sends multiple keys over a connection every second, a technique that allows for real-time security monitoring of a fibre network.
Crucially, where encrypted information and keys used to have to be sent through two or three fibres, QKD allows both to pass simultaneously through a single connection.
Toshiba and ADVA Optical Networking provided the equipment for the trials, while BT provided the live fibre link. The NPL's Quantum Detection Group undertook the measurement and evaluation.
“The QKD system works by sending single particles of light, known as photons, in pulses across the optical fibre," explained Alastair Sinclair from NPL.
"Knowing the number of photons sent and received is integral to the security of the system. At NPL, we’ve developed a series of measurements that are sensitive enough to detect the individual particles of light, which we are using to independently verify the security of the system, in order to improve customer confidence and overcome one of the major barriers to market.”
Jörg-Peter Elbers of ADVA Optical Networking stressed the importance of the innovation for business.
“Enterprises are acutely aware of the risks to their reputation and their business should any weakness in their data protection be found. Encrypted site-to-site connectivity without any compromise on throughput or latency is key," he stated. "This QKD trial is a critical stepping stone to building a practical solution that will drive even greater levels of network security.”
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