Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Secure communication with light particles: Researchers developing an anti-eavesdropping quantum network

While quantum computers offer many innovative possibilities, they also pose a threat to Internet security because these supercomputers make common encryption methods vulnerable. Based on so-called quantum key distribution, researchers at TU Darmstadt have developed a new, tap-proof communication network.

The new system for encrypting messages is used to exchange symmetric keys between the parties so that they cannot be read by third parties. In collaboration with Deutsche Telekom, researchers led by physics professor Thomas Walther succeeded in operating a quantum network that is scalable in terms of number of users as well as robust without the need for reliable nodes. In the future, such systems could protect critical infrastructure from the growing threat of cyberattacks. In addition, tap-proof connections can be established between various government sites in large cities.

The system developed by the Darmstadt researchers enables so-called quantum key exchange, which assigns a common random number to multiple parties in a star-shaped network. Individual light quanta, so-called photons, are distributed to users in communication networks to calculate random numbers and thus digital keys. Because of quantum physical effects, these keys are particularly secure. In this way, communication is particularly highly protected, and existing eavesdropping attacks can be detected.

Until now, such quantum key methods have been technically complex and sensitive to external influences. The Darmstadt group’s system from the Collaborative Research Center Crossing is based on a special protocol. The system distributes photons from a central source to all users in the network and establishes the security of quantum keys through the effect of so-called quantum entanglement. This quantum-physical effect produces a correlation between two light particles, which can be observed even when they are far away. The property of the companion particle can be estimated by measuring the property of a light particle from a pair.

Polarization is often used as a property, but it is commonly disturbed in glass fibers used for transmission due to environmental effects such as vibration or small temperature changes. However, the Darmstadt system uses a protocol in which quantum information is encoded in the phase and arrival time of the photon and is therefore particularly insensitive to such disturbances. For the first time, the group has succeeded in providing a network of users with quantum keys through this robust protocol.

The high stability and in principle scalability of the transmission was successfully demonstrated in a field test with Deutsche Telekom Technik GmbH. As a next step, the researchers at TU Darmstadt plan to connect other buildings in the city to their system.

Story Source:

material provided by Technische University Darmstadt, Note: Content can be edited for style and length.

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