Photons Over 'Optical Fiber Obstacle Course' Could Improve Cyber Security

The new technique could help deal with some of the challenges with quantum key distribution over fiber networks.

Approximately 1.2 meters below you there is a host of optical fibers, connecting homes, businesses, offices, and the occasional gaming office. These optical fibers are the lifeblood of the digital landscape, carrying your data, and information while encoded in pulses of light to different places around the world. Properly protecting your data is not only a hot topic but a major cause for concern for major institutions. 


Recently, researchers from Singapore have showcased a technique that takes its principles from the quantum world that will help pairs of light particles smoothly navigate optical fibers, opening the doors to better cyber security

Quantum Security 

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021. New approaches to cybersecurity like the one presented in the scientific journal Applied Physics Letters could help combat this growing trend. As mentioned above, researchers from the National University of Singapore and Singtel, Asia's leading communications technology group have developed a new technique that centers around entangled photons. 

Their new technique perfectly aligns with the new technology currently being tested called quantum key distribution or QKD for short. QKD sends signals using photons over fiber networks. Resistant to any type of hack imaginable, the detection of these photons traveling throughout the network creates encryption keys. 

Major businesses and governments are investing in QKD infrastructures as the need for better cybersecurity have drastically risen. 

How Does it Work? 

Researchers' new technique keeps photons entangled as they pass through a network. Traditionally, photons encounter a series of different obstacles of spliced fiber segments and junction boxes. Photons tend to suffer from dispersion making it difficult for operators to track photons.  


Innovative Quantum Material Could Be Key to Even Faster Quantum Computing

In a quantum network, the supplier would create a pair of entangled photons, sending one to each of the parties that want to communicate with each other. Due to the fact that the photons are entangled each receiver should receive matching photons, giving them the key to unlock the method. 

The new method proposed by the NUS-Singtel lab works by designing photons that generate specific colors on either side of the parties. Using optical fibers with bluer light, researchers were able to appropriately match the timing of these photons, a crucial component of this process. 

"Timing information is what allows us to link pairs of detection events together. Preserving this correlation will help us to create encryption keys faster," says James Grieve, a researcher on the team.   

The new quantum method has a host of applications outside of the realm of cybersecurity and could be used to coordinate the synchronization of clocks for time-critical operations such as financial trading.    


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