EU Consortium to Prevent Quantum Cyberattacks

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BRUSSELS, Feb. 25, 2020 — Scientists at the EU’s €1 billion Quantum Technology (QT) Flagship initiative have developed quantum encryption protocols to create what they’re calling the most secure transmission of sensitive information through the internet.

The QT Flagship is supporting four consortia: The CiViQ (continuous variable quantum communications) consortium has developed QKD (quantum key distribution) protocols to secure digital information; researchers at QRANGE have created quantum random number generators (QRNGs) that can be implemented in such protocols; UNIQORN scientists are searching for ways to miniaturize QKD down to the chip-scale to be easily integrated into any consumer device; and researchers from QIA are aiming to combine these resources to build the future quantum internet.

CiViQ’s secure encryption cannot be intercepted or manipulated, meaning data is “unhackable.” QKD works by transmitting photons over a fiber optic cable from one entity to another. Photons are made in such a way that any attempt to read or copy them will change their quantum properties, corrupting the information and letting the sender and receiver know that a third party tried to intercept.

“Today, individuals, industries, and governments use networks to transmit sensitive data, such as health, financial, or defense information,” Valerio Pruneri, CiViQ’s project coordinator, said. “CiViQ’s QKD technology will enable wide-scale deployment and integration into modern telecom networks, providing long-term and reliable data security, based on the physical principle of quantum mechanics.”

CiViQ said its approach is different from previous projects because QKD technology specifications are defined by end-user needs. The company is hoping this will help it integrate QKD technology into existing modern telecom networks without the need to build ad-hoc, separate quantum communication infrastructure.

“We expect to use these prototypes in field demonstrations in a real optical network in 2020 while we will also continue to develop even more advanced systems with higher integration and performance in laboratory experiments,” Pruneri said.

With a goal of fortifying computer-generated pseudo-random numbers, the QRANGE project is hoping to develop next-generation solutions by creating QRNG devices that will be cheaper, faster, and more secure.

“There is a risk of being hacked with our classical computers and pseudo-random number generators given that they provide random bit sequences that have certain patterns,” Hugo Zbinden, QRANGE’s project coordinator, said. “Numbers generated by a QRNG, on the other hand, cannot be predicted and are thus provably unpredictable.”

While QRNGs are an available technology, their size and cost still make them commercially prohibitive for many applications. QRANGE is trying to solve this problem by making its version more affordable and able to be integrated on standard CMOS technology.

“The project is working on three different approaches that will lead to three different prototypes,” Zbinden said. “It is fundamentally important to generate truly random numbers: Any deviation may adversely affect modelling or jeopardize security.”

To achieve its goal of integration, QRANGE is looking into miniaturization to fit the technology into any device. The company also hopes to develop a random number generator based on the interference of laser pulses with random phase relationship featuring bit rates of up to 10 Gb/s. The final prototype will be a self-testing QRNG, allowing for continuous estimation of the generated entropy.

QRANGE prototype chips. Courtesy of Euro News.

QRANGE prototype chips. Courtesy of Euro News.

The UNIQORN project has a similar goal, developing pluggable quantum devices that can be miniaturized into small and reliable photonic integrated circuits. Developing affordable system-on-chip quantum technology platforms, the UNIQORN technology may lead to miniaturized QKD technology and other quantum communication applications.

“At UNIQORN we’re shrinking complex systems, presently found on meter-size breadboards, into millimeter-size chips, meaning highly miniaturized low-cost quantum systems are being opened up for the mass population,” Hannes Hübel, UNIQORN’s project coordinator, said.

“Thanks to the QT Flagship’s €1 billion investment over the next 10 years, European scientists are developing Quantum Random Number Generator and Quantum Key Distributor products to keep us safe from a first potential quantum cyberattack,” Markus Wilkens, coordinator of the Quantum Flagship Coordination office, said.

Wilkens said the QT Flagship has already launched 20 projects with an allocated €132 million in its “ramp-up” phase, the first three-year part of the Flagship, running from October 2018 to September 2021.

Published: February 2020
BusinessEuropequantum technologyQuantum Technology Flagshipencryptiondefensequantum random number generatorlaser pulsesphase relationshipQRNGquantum devicessystem-on-chipconsortiumfiber opticsCommunications

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