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Danish group launches €3 million quantum communication project

18 Jan 2021

CryptQ consortium to develop fiber laser-based secure optical networking system over the next three years.

CryptQ is a newly-announced Danish consortium, which is aiming to develop a cost-effective quantum-secured communication system over the next three years. Innovation Fund Denmark has invested €3 million into the development program.

CryptQ brings together several businesses working in cryptographic technologies: hardware company Zybersafe; cryptology firm Cryptomathic; and fiber laser developer NKT Photonics. The research is being conducted by a combination of DTU Physics, DTU Fotonik, Aarhus University, and the Danish Fundamental Metrology Institute.

The CryptQ consortium explained its objectives in a launch statement, “The growing threat from cybercrime has increased the need for secure communications. We need to protect ourselves and be a step ahead of the criminals.

“We will develop a technology that lets us send information securely through the regular fiber network. It is a challenge today, and the challenge will increase further when quantum computers become common.”

CryptQ says it will build on the Danish group’s knowledge of quantum communications and use Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) to develop a secure and cost-effective quantum communication technology.

Low-noise lasers

Photonic systems provider NKT Photonics commented, “Our Koheras low-noise single-frequency fiber laser modules typically target high-end/low-volume scientific applications. They provide the perfect combination of low-noise laser light and a very compact package. The low-noise light from our lasers is vital when transmitting the delicate quantum states that contain the encrypted information. In the CryptQ project, we are developing small low-noise chip-based lasers with nearly all the low-noise characteristics of the Koheras product line.”

Christian Jul Jensen CEO of Zybersafe, commented, “The increasing global threat from cybercrime will spur a strong demand for security solutions resistant to future computing technologies. Being part of the CryptQ consortium, we actively partake in Danish development of globally leading crypto-systems. We expect quantum safe cryptography to be a standard in zero-trust data environments within five to 20 years.”

Quantum randomness

Cryptography works by randomizing information using an encryption key. For symmetric encryption like AES, which is the most widely employed scheme, the same key undoes the randomization, enabling the receiver to reveal the original information.

Thus, it is of utmost importance for the security that only the legitimate sender and receiver are in possession of the encryption key. This makes key distribution an absolutely central part of the cryptographic system.

“CV-QKD allows us to generate and distribute encryption keys though optical fibers and at the same time ensuring that no adversaries have gained information about the key,” said project leader Tobias Gehring, associate professor at DTU Physics.

Professor Ulrik Lund Andersen at DTU Physics, who is also part of the CryptQ leadership, added, “To understand the security offered by this technology we must dive into quantum physics. Say, I receive a pulse of light in some, to me, unknown quantum state and try to measure it. The result will be completely unpredictable and as a result I cannot trace back the original state of the pulse. As a consequence, copying of unknown quantum states is prohibited as copying involves measurements. That is quantum cryptography’s ultimate claim to security.”

Securing financial data

The CryptQ consortium also includes Danske Bank and Energinet, representing key application areas for quantum secured communication, and both companies will host and collaborate on executing field tests of the developed technology. “In Danske Bank, we foresee many applicable benefits of the added security quantum key distribution will bring to our infrastructure,” said Peter Lidell, Head of Cyber Design and Cyber Build at Danske Bank. “Hosting a field test in our datacenters will provide us firsthand experience with the technology. Later on, we hope to see a seamless large-scale implementation in our crypto chain.”

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