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Cyber security upgrade

Quantum physics

Quantum physics is providing the key to development and commercialisation of secure communication and technology services.

5 May 2020

Researchers from University of Bristol, UK, are developing a technology that could be the next step in data security. Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is an encryption protocol that uses quantum properties of light to generate secure random keys. However, integration into existing systems is a challenge as commercial QKD transmitters and receivers are large and expensive and only suitable for high-value security applications.

But Bristol’s researchers have produced a miniature, chip-based device that could facilitate the wider implementation of QKD, so increasing data security for individuals and businesses. The technology could allow people to work at home more securely, with every house connected to a quantum-ready network, the research team said.  Quantum ‘keys’ are exchanged between users via a fibre optic network allowing them to encrypt and decrypt messages sent via the network. If a hacker tries to intercept the key generation, errors are introduced into the system and the attempted data breach is revealed before any information is exchanged. The new devices rely on complex circuits to control the weak light signals necessary for QKD.

The research at Bristol is part of the second phase of the Quantum Communication Hub, a five year program which started in November 2019. The hub is a partnership between ten UK universities, private sector companies and public bodies collaborating to exploit quantum physics for the development and commercialisation of secure communications and technologies and services.

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