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Tuesday, 23 April 2019 04:39

Singtel, NUS develop new approach for quantum key distribution

Senior research fellow Dr James Grieve of the Centre for Quantum Technologies at NUS and Dr Amelia Tan, principal investigator of the project and senior R&D engineer of Trustwave, Singtel’s cyber security subsidiary. Senior research fellow Dr James Grieve of the Centre for Quantum Technologies at NUS and Dr Amelia Tan, principal investigator of the project and senior R&D engineer of Trustwave, Singtel’s cyber security subsidiary. Supplied

Researchers from the National University of Singapore and Singapore telecommunications company Singtel have demonstrated the co-ordination of travel of light particles through different fibre paths to control their arrival times and demonstrate that quantum key distribution is possible in this manner.

QKD is a protocol that transmits photons over a network so that communicating entities can agree on, and generate, an encryption key to set up a secure channel for communications.

The researchers' success ensured that the photons stayed in sequence, making the generation of an encryption key painless, the two organisations said in a statement. The technique was demonstrated on the Singtel fibre network.

“The breakthrough achieved by the NUS-Singtel Cyber Security R&D Lab not only strengthens our defences in a new cyber reality where threats are becoming more sophisticated, [but] it also positions Singapore as a hub for global QKD research," said Bill Chang, chief executive, Group Enterprise at Singtel.

"We will continue developing and fine-tuning this technology with the aim of commercialising it through our global footprint of product engineering centres.”


Dr Jia Xu, R&D manager from Trustwave, Singtel’s cyber security subsidiary, and Soe Moe Thar, a research assistant at the Centre for Quantum Technologies at NUS, with some of the hardware being developed for advancing quantum technology at the NUS-Singtel Cyber Security R&D Lab.

The statement said QKD was resistant to computational hacks, including next-generation quantum computing threats and attempts to eavesdrop would increase the error rate of the photon sequence.

This, in turn, would alert the two communicating parties to an intrusion so that they could abort the session and start a new one.

The NUS and Singtel said the researchers were now working on developing the findings for actual use cases where quantum-resistant secure communication is needed to provide long-term security, such as government, military and bank services.

They said in future, QKD hardware could even be integrated with the Internet to develop security solutions for Internet banking and online shopping. As the smooth photon pair navigation enables high-precision clock synchronisation, this discovery could also be deployed in time-critical operations such as real-time big data analytics and financial trading.

“The positive results indicate that current commercial fibre networks are ready for quantum key distribution," said Associate Professor Alexander Ling, the principal investigator of the project. "This technology opens up many exciting possibilities for users that require strong and long- term security for their communication.”

The project was conducted by the NUS-Singtel Cyber Security Research and Development Laboratory, a public-private partnership supported by the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore, that was set up in October 2016 to develop cyber security capabilities and solutions. Experts from NUS’ Centre for Quantum Technologies were also involved.

The findings were published in the Applied Physics Letters journal in April.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



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