A Quantum Response to Next-Gen Cyber Threats

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February 22, 2019 | Originally published by Date Line: February 22 on

Computer security experts have sounded alarms that the power of quantum computers may make it possible to crack current advanced encryption standards (AES) that are used to protect highly sensitive data.

The key vulnerability of current encryption standards — including both the 256-bit AES and the 3,072-bit RSA — lies not in their being uncrackable, but rather in the fact that cracking them would take too much time and resources to be feasible. 

The massive increases in processing power that quantum computers could provide, however, have cybersecurity experts warning that existing encryption standards could soon be worthless.

Quantum Xchange, a communications company based in Bethesda, Md., says it has the answer to securely transferring critical data. The company is currently testing the first quantum-secured network in the United States — dubbed Phio — which carries quantum cryptographic keys over fiber-optic cable for organizations that are securely transferring critical data. The first leg of the distribution network connects New York City to New Jersey.

The company”s quantum encryption works like existing encryption standards.  An encryption key — which in current standards is generated by multiplying sets of prime numbers — is used to encode a file for transmission. When the recipients receive the encrypted file, they need the correct encryption key to decrypt it.

What”s different about Quantum Xchange’s network is that it uses quantum technology to generate truly random encryption keys.  First, Phio uses a random quantum number generator to create keys by measuring the properties of streaming photons — primarily their polarization or phase modulation.  “If it”s a vertical polarization you might say it”s a one, and if it”s horizontal you might say it”s a zero,” Quantum Xchange CEO John Prisco said.