Verizon tunes up quantum-based technology trial in Washington D.C. to bolster security

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Verizon conducts a successful trial of quantum key distribution (QDK) in its Washington D.C. footprint. (Getty Images)

In order to better keep communications safe and secure from hackers, Verizon recently conducted a trial of quantum key distribution (QKD) in Washington D.C. Verizon said the successful trial positioned it as one of the first carriers in the U.S. to pilot the use of QKD.

Quantum cryptography could provide a solution for the vulnerability of current cryptographic key implementations. Today, cryptographic techniques encrypt data using a secure key, which is only known to the parties using that key for decrypting the messages between them.

Those cryptographic techniques for key generation are based on highly complex mathematical problems that require long calculations to be resolved. With the growth of computational capacity, the time required to solve these problems becomes shorter, which reduces the security of the keys.

With the advent of quantum computers, the principles of quantum mechanics could be applied to break the keys used in today's security implementations. By contrast, QKD could be applied to exchange a key between the two ends of a communication. QKD provides protection against the threat posed by quantum computing to current cryptographic algorithms and provides a high level of security for the exchange of data.

RELATED: Telefónica, Huawei trial quantum cryptography on optical network using SDN

Two years ago, Telefónica and Huawei conducted a successful field trial of quantum cryptography on commercial optical networks by using SDN.

In Verizon's QKD trial, live video was captured outside of three Verizon locations in the D.C. area, including the Washington DC Executive Briefing Center, the 5G Lab in D.C and Verizon’s Ashburn, Virginia office. Using a QKD network, quantum keys were created and exchanged over a fiber network between Verizon's locations.

In the trial, video streams were encrypted and delivered more securely allowing the recipient to see the video in real-time while instantly exposing hackers. A QKD network derives cryptographic keys using the quantum properties of photons to prevent against eavesdropping.

Verizon also demonstrated that data could be further secured with keys generated using a Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG) that, as the name suggests, creates random numbers that can’t be predicted. With QKD, encryption keys are continuously generated and are immune to attacks because any disruption to the channel breaks the quantum state of photons, which signals that eavesdroppers are present.

"The use of quantum mechanics is a great step forward in data security,” said IDC Analyst Christina Richmond, in a statement. “Verizon's own tests, as well other industry testing, have shown that deriving 'secret keys' between two entities via light photons effectively blocks perfect cloning by an eavesdropper if a key intercept is attempted.

"Current technological breakthroughs have proven that both the quantum channel and encrypted data channel can be sent over a single optical fiber. Verizon has demonstrated this streamlined approach brings greater efficiency for practical large-scale implementation allowing keys to be securely shared over wide-ranging networks.”