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'Uncrackable' Secure Gigabit Quantum-Encryption Scheme Created

A quantum cyptography developer has teamed with an Australian cyptography company to create what the partners claim is the world's first 1- to 10-Gbps secure network that combines uncrackable quantum keys with classical encryption.

InformationWeek Staff

January 12, 2007

2 Min Read

PORTLAND, Ore. — Quantum encryption is uncrackable, but depends on communicating individual photons as encryption keys. That physical limit means individual photons take time to communicate, slowing overall data rates.

Now quantum cyptography company id Quantique SA (Geneva) has teamed with Australian cyptography company Senetas Corp. Ltd. (Melbourne) to create what the partners claim in the world's first 1- to 10-Gbit/s secure network that combines uncrackable quantum keys with classical encryption.

"Typical bit rates used in today's high-speed networks forming corporate backbones are in the range of 1 to 10 gigabits'per second, but until today id Quantique was not in a position to offer quantum cryptography solutions working at such high bit rates," said Grgoire Ribordy, CEO of id Quantique. "With this new development, quantum cryptography is now compatible with these high-speed data networks."

Senetas has delivered high-speed encrypted network hardware. With the claimed added security of id Quantique's quantum cyptography using single-photon encyption keys, the hybrid systems can provide security for sensitive communications, the partners claimed.

The new system, which is compatible with Senetas ATM, Sonet and Gigabit Ethernet implementations. It also shares a single id Quantique quantum key distribution system among several Senetas CypherNet encryptors.

Quantum key distribution makes communications hack-proof by eliminating the possibility of eavesdropping—rather than depending on the length of an encryption key to scramble transmitted data. Quantum cryptography instead employs individual photon polarization to represent 1s and 0s in such a way that intrusions can be detected. The uncrackable codes rely on single-photon emitters and receivers that detect whether a hacker has viewed a polarized photon—flagging the intrusion by switching any bit that has been observed, thereby alerting the recipient to an eavesdropping attempt.

The joint effort, which took less than a year, has so far produced a 1-Gbit/s Ethernet encyrptor prototype. The partners plan to expand speed to 10 Gbits/s before the end of the year. Testing has just been completed; the first customer installations are scheduled to begin by midyear.

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