Los Alamos reveals it's been running quantum network for two and a half years

May 07, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
Test configuration using the Los Alamos (LANL) QSC system to secure PMU control commands and data. The TCIPG test bed provided a real-time digital (power) simulator, PMU, and PDC software to control and display data from the PMU. Credit: arXiv:1305.0305 [quant-ph]

(Phys.org) —In a recent paper available on arXiv, a team of researchers at New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory has revealed they've been running a quantum network for 2 1/2 years. The network is hub-and-spoke based, the team reports, and allows for perfectly secure messaging except at the hub.

are the for —because messages cannot be read without changing them, it is impossible for them to be intercepted without being detected. But that same technology that allows for such perfect security also prevents it from being implemented in network systems. In order for messages to be routed, the address must be read, thus altering the message. The researchers at Los Alamos report they've worked around this problem by implementing the network as a hub-and-spoke system.

In this approach, all nodes on the network are connected directly to the hub. The hub reads the message (causing it to be changed), then repackages it and sends it securely to the node whose address was found in the original message. This makes the network secure at all points except at the hub.

Using a hub-and-spoke approach has two deficiencies for general purpose use. The first is the inherent weakness at the hub—if it were to be breached, the whole network would be compromised. The second is scalability—at some point, the number of nodes connected to the becomes unwieldy, making further growth impossible. The researchers at Los Alamos say they've reduced the scalability problem by giving each node on the network a quantum transmitter, but not a . This makes adding nodes a very cheap proposition—those at Los Alamos, the researchers say, aren't much bigger than a box of matches.

Impressive as it is, the network at Los Alamos is more of a work-around than solution to the problem of building quantum networks for general purpose use. A solution requires that someone figures out a way to route quantum messages without destroying their integrity. Until that happens, this new approach appears to be a good stand-in, as it's clearly far more secure than traditional systems.

Explore further: Step lightly: All-optical transistor triggered by single photon promises advances in quantum applications

More information: Network-Centric Quantum Communications with Application to Critical Infrastructure Protection, arXiv:1305.0305 [quant-ph] arxiv.org/abs/1305.0305

Abstract
Network-centric quantum communications (NQC) - a new, scalable instantiation of quantum cryptography providing key management with forward security for lightweight encryption, authentication and digital signatures in optical networks - is briefly described. Results from a multi-node experimental test-bed utilizing integrated photonics quantum communications components, known as QKarDs, include: quantum identification; verifiable quantum secret sharing; multi-party authenticated key establishment, including group keying; and single-fiber quantum-secured communications that can be applied as a security retrofit/upgrade to existing optical fiber installations. A demonstration that NQC meets the challenging simultaneous latency and security requirements of electric grid control communications, which cannot be met without compromises using conventional cryptography, is described.

via ArxivBlog

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User comments : 10

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rkolter
5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2013
I don't think this article expresses the full importance of a functional quantum network. Even with a hub that could be exploited, the overall effect is a big net gain in security.
vacuum-mechanics
1 / 5 (11) May 07, 2013
Impressive as it is, the network at Los Alamos is more of a work-around than solution to the problem of building quantum networks for general purpose use. A solution requires that someone figures out a way to route quantum messages without destroying their integrity. Until that happens, this new approach appears to be a good stand-in, as it's clearly far more secure than traditional network systems.

This seems to be another advance research in applied quantum theory, in contrast to its theoretical ream (such as the mystery quantum foundation concept) which stay standstill without any progress! Maybe this physical view could give a hint…
http://www.vacuum...19〈=en
Bickypop
May 07, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
EyeNStein
1 / 5 (4) May 07, 2013
As the address block does not need secure transmission it can be sent on a distinct colour from the data. It can be read and re-transmitted and also used to switch the optical data hub.
Some kind of token would be needed to avoid data clashes at the destination. And a delay fibre to allow the slow address decoding electronics time to switch.
dbren
not rated yet May 07, 2013
So, it's a quantum version of UUNET.
Ober
not rated yet May 07, 2013
@EyeNStein, how would you match the distinct colour routing packet to the encrypted Quantum packet??? The system would end up routing packets to the wrong destination if the match were not 100% correct.
EyeNStein
1.6 / 5 (5) May 07, 2013
@Ober
Every optical data source would send datagrams with the target address (routing header packet) on one wavelength of light then the quantum encrypted data block on another wavelength on the same fibre. At the hub the target address header wavelength/colour is decoded and used to route the data block to its destination by some form of electro-optical switch matrix. A source delay fibre (5ns per meter) would be required to delay the incoming header until the outgoing switch is set.
The Electro optical switch matrix designed to not corrupt transmission of the data block would be an engineering challenge. But I have to leave something for the guys at Los Alamos to figure out ;-)
This stops the hub being a security risk as the data block wavelength/colour routes through unmolested.
IamVal
1 / 5 (2) May 08, 2013
if the problem of routability were to ever be solved here, the system as a whole would lose it's inherent security aspect by definition... as that security lies in the un-interceptibility of the messages without ruining the data.

which means to tell me that their calling it a quantum network is actually a bit of a stretch. This is an optical network with data being encrypted into photons(if the article is any indication), tho it doesn't go into heavy detail as to how the system operates. when I think of a quantum network, I think of entanglement, I believe they're referring to the encryption method, which is like saying wifi was unhackable because the packets were un-interceptable a year after it was invented.. Ya know; when only a dozen places in the world had the technology to catch and read the signal, not because it was physically or financially impossible.
quantum encryption is no stronger (theoretically) than computational encryption, just newer. can be emulated digitally
EyeNStein
1.8 / 5 (5) May 08, 2013
You're right a quantum optical router has to be a very different beast.
The internal router topology has to be different from a common electronic hub.
A high bandwidth electronic "spine" within the hub where all the messages travel sequentially would not be allowed as packet reading, storage and forwarding would be insecure.
It has to look like a single piece of glass from source to destination: Which takes some very fancy electro optical switching inside any optical hub.
QuixoteJ
1.3 / 5 (4) May 08, 2013
Ahh, a Bob Yirka article... sentences grouped into paragraphs, and properly-used commas and dashes... so refreshing.

The network described sounds like a good middle ground for the whole quantum computing network approach, but if security is the driving force, I would spend more money on better conventional methods.
angelhkrillin
1 / 5 (2) May 11, 2013
This may not be a complete quantum network or quantum computer but the article is trying to show that los alamos is using "Quantum Networking" which is secure. I'm pretty sure lots of government agencies are already using this as there are a couple of major world banks using "quantum networking" internally. Again, not quantum networks or quantum computers, but quantum networking.