Nav: Home

Developing a secure, un-hackable net

January 11, 2018

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 quantum networks 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 network 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 quantum laws 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 quantum devices, 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 large networks.

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 secret keys 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 quantum 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.
-end-


University College London

Related Physics Articles:

Diamonds coupled using quantum physics
Researchers at TU Wien have succeeded in coupling the specific defects in two such diamonds with one another.
The physics of wealth inequality
A Duke engineering professor has proposed an explanation for why the income disparity in America between the rich and poor continues to grow.
Physics can predict wealth inequality
The 2016 election year highlighted the growing problem of wealth inequality and finding ways to help the people who are falling behind.
Physics: Toward a practical nuclear pendulum
Researchers from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) Munich have, for the first time, measured the lifetime of an excited state in the nucleus of an unstable element.
Flowers use physics to attract pollinators
A new review indicates that flowers may be able to manipulate the laws of physics, by playing with light, using mechanical tricks, and harnessing electrostatic forces to attract pollinators.
Physics, photosynthesis and solar cells
A University of California, Riverside assistant professor has combined photosynthesis and physics to make a key discovery that could help make solar cells more efficient.
2-D physics
Physicist Andrea Young receives a 2016 Packard Fellowship to pursue his studies of van der Waals heterostructures.
Cats seem to grasp the laws of physics
Cats understand the principle of cause and effect as well as some elements of physics.
Plasma physics' giant leap
For the first time, scientists are looking at real data -- not computer models, but direct observation -- about what is happening in the fascinating region where the Earth's magnetic field breaks and then joins with the interplanetary magnetic field.
Nuclear physics' interdisciplinary progress
The theoretical view of the structure of the atom nucleus is not carved in stone.

Related Physics Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...