BT and Toshiba today opened the UK’s first secure quantum communication showcase at BT’s research and development centre in Ipswich.
The showcase sees the two companies demonstrate cutting edge quantum cryptography, which can be used to protect digital information transported within banks and financial services organisations from hacking.
Quantum cryptography works by delivering secret keys over fibre optic cable, using the smallest possible packets of light. It allows eavesdroppers on a line to be easily detected because any attempt to monitor the data being transferred will disturb the photons sending the keys and introduce errors to their encoding. This allows organisations to check whether the key has been intercepted by a cyber-criminal.
Quantum cryptography is used to securely transfer all manner of confidential information, such as personal details, biometric data and bank statements, between a bank branch and an off-site data centre.
Off-site data centres are prevalent throughout the financial sector, making the secure communication of personal and banking information over digital infrastructure crucially important.
Professor Tim Whitley, head of research for BT, and MD of Adastral Park, said: “We’ve been conducting research into quantum cryptography for several years now so this is a great step forward in demonstrating how our research can benefit businesses. Businesses and organisations today face a tide of ever increasing and highly sophisticated attacks from cyber criminals so ensuring the secure transfer of critical data is more important than ever. We’re confident that quantum cryptography will play an increasingly important role in helping companies guarantee that their secure communications remain water-tight in the future.”
Dr. Shiro Saito, Corporate Senior Vice President, and General Manager of the Technology Division at Toshiba Corporation said: “Toshiba is already applying quantum cryptography to secure transmission of genome data in Japan, since protecting personal medical information is one of the promising application fields. Showing our secure communication system in BT’s customer showcase will enable us to demonstrate how quantum technology can enhance a wider range of businesses. We look forward to working with BT over the coming months to gather useful feedback and address the security requirements and concerns of BT customers.”
BT and Toshiba’s system uses quantum cryptography to form digital crypto keys between the two points, which can be used to encrypt and authenticate each piece of confidential data flowing between two sites. The quantum signals used to form the secret keys can also be sent along the same fibre as the bank data, so it greatly reduces the cost of infrastructure required.
The companies have been working on techniques to integrate quantum security into conventional fibre optic communication networks over the past two years at Toshiba’s research lab in Cambridge. During this collaboration they have demonstrated success in using quantum cryptography on “lit” installed fibre carrying 10Gbps data signals for the first time. More recently they found quantum key distribution and 100Gbps data can be combined on the same fibre.
BT and Toshiba Research Europe are also collaborating on a major project to build a Quantum Communication network (the “UK Quantum Network”). This initiative, which is part of the UK’s £270 Million Quantum Technology Programme, will facilitate quantum secured communications between Cambridge, Bristol, London and Adastral Park. A link connecting BT’s Labs at Adastral Park and the Cambridge Science Park is expected to be completed early next year.