Developing a secure, un-hackable net

January 11, 2018, University College London
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A method of securely communicating between multiple quantum devices has been developed by a UCL-led team of scientists, bringing forward the reality of a large-scale, un- hackable quantum network.

To date, communicating via has only been possible between two devices of known provenance that have been built securely.

With the EU and UK committing €1 billion and £270 million respectively into funding quantum technology research, a race is on to develop the first truly secure, large-scale between cities that works for any quantum device.

"We're in a technology arms race of sorts. When quantum computers are fully developed, they will break much of today's encryption whose security is only based on mathematical assumptions. To pre-emptively solve this, we are working on new ways of communicating through large networks that don't rely on assumptions, but instead use the of physics to ensure security, which would need to be broken to hack the encryption," explained lead author, Dr Ciarán Lee (UCL Physics & Astronomy).

Published in Physical Review Letters and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the study by UCL, the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh scientists details a new way of communicating securely between three or more , irrespective of who built them.

"Our approach works for a general network where you don't need to trust the manufacturer of the device or network for secrecy to be guaranteed. Our method works by using the network's structure to limit what an eavesdropper can learn," said Dr Matty Hoban (University of Oxford, previously University of Edinburgh).

The approach bridges the gap between the theoretical promise of perfect security guaranteed by the laws of quantum physics and the practical implementation of such security in .

It tests the security of the quantum devices prior to engaging in communications with the whole network. It does this by checking if the correlations between devices in the network are intrinsically quantum and cannot have been created by another means.

These correlations are used to establish secret keys which can be used to encrypt any desired communication. Security is ensured by the unique property that quantum correlations can only be shared between the devices that created them, ensuring no hacker can ever come to learn the key.

The team used two methods - machine learning and causal inference - to develop the test for the un-hackable communications system. This approach distributes in a way that cannot be effectively intercepted, because through quantum mechanics their secrecy can be tested and guaranteed.

"Our work can be thought of as creating the software that will run on hardware currently being built to realise the potential of quantum communications. In future work, we'd like to work with partners in the UK national quantum technologies programme to develop this further. We hope to trial our network approach over the next few years," concluded Dr Lee.

The team acknowledge that an un-hackable network could be abused in the same way that current networks are, but highlight that there is also a clear benefit to ensuring privacy too.

Explore further: Quantum 'spooky action at a distance' becoming practical

More information: Ciarán M. Lee et al, Towards Device-Independent Information Processing on General Quantum Networks, Physical Review Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.120.020504

Related Stories

Quantum 'spooky action at a distance' becoming practical

January 5, 2018

A team from Griffith's Centre for Quantum Dynamics in Australia have demonstrated how to rigorously test if pairs of photons - particles of light - display Einstein's "spooky action at a distance", even under adverse conditions ...

The exciting new age of quantum computing

October 25, 2016

What does the future hold for computing? Experts at the Networked Quantum Information Technologies Hub (NQIT), based at Oxford University, believe our next great technological leap lies in the development of quantum computing.

Worldwide quantum web may be possible with help from graphs

June 8, 2016

(Phys.org)—One of the most ambitious endeavors in quantum physics right now is to build a large-scale quantum network that could one day span the entire globe. In a new study, physicists have shown that describing quantum ...

Recommended for you

Unusual sound waves discovered in quantum liquids

July 20, 2018

Ordinary sound waves—small oscillations of density—can propagate through all fluids, causing the molecules in the fluid to compress at regular intervals. Now physicists have theoretically shown that in one-dimensional ...

A phonon laser operating at an exceptional point

July 20, 2018

The basic quanta of light (photon) and sound (phonon) are bosonic particles that largely obey similar rules and are in general very good analogs of one another. Physicists have explored this analogy in recent experimental ...

A physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

July 20, 2018

An international team of scientists has discovered a new, exotic form of insulating material with a metallic surface that could enable more efficient electronics or even quantum computing. The researchers developed a new ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.