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Secure High-Speed Communication based on Quantum Key Distribution

Today’s information society relies heavily on storing and transferring data in digital form. Cryptography provides the means that is necessary to exchange data securely. It relies on two fundamental parts: first, one needs a secret key, which is subsequently used to encrypt the data with a mathematical algorithm. Secret keys can be transmitted using a trusted messenger, or in a more convenient way, using public key infrastructure, the security of which is based on computational complexity and suffers from the lack of a mathematical proof for the class of complexity. Modern encryption, using algorithms like the Advanced Encryption Standard, is generally considered unbreakable, provided the keys are sufficiently long. However, absolute security can only be guaranteed by the so-called one-time-pad (OTP), where secret keys as long as the message, have to be used.

This project aims to considerably improve cryptography on both the key distribution level and the encryption level. Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is a secure way to generate and distribute keys, which is based on the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics. However, existing systems are too slow. The new QKD system will be capable of producing keys at 1 Mbps rate, which means it will allow 1 MHz OTP encryption for high-level applications.

In standard applications the data exchange rates continue to increase. Today’s commercial encryptors are already approaching 10 Gbps. Consequently the project seeks to develop a future proof encryption engine for up to 100 Gbps and looks to combine this high-speed encryption with high rate QKD, to allow the rapid changing of keys, thus considerably improving the security and simplifying the key management.

The project will develop advanced prototypes for very-high-speed QKD and encryption. Both of these systems will greatly surpass any technology currently available. This is only possible by combining the outstanding competencies of the partners in such diverse fields as quantum optics, high-speed electronics and integrated circuit programming as well as cryptographic and network security. The modular approach will provide flexible solutions for diverse communication scenarios by operating the devices in unison or stand-alone. Finally, in contrast to current quantum key distribution systems, they will be compatible with standard optical networks and capable of using wavelength multiplexing.