by Rebecca Merrett

Australian quantum cyber security firm wins global award

Nov 24, 2015

QuintessenceLabs, built out of Australian National University, has been internationally recognised as a leader in quantum cyber security by winning a global Security Innovation Network (SINET) award.

Quantum cyber security is a step above creating extremely complex mathematical codes or encryption keys that require a fleet of supercomputers to crack it. Instead, the technology leverages the laws of physics and the quantum state where photos are entangled or data mirror each other over distances.

This is what makes the data highly secure, as an intercept is immediately detected as soon as the quantum entanglement is tampered with.

“Unless our understanding of physics is flawed, the code that we come up with can’t be broken,” said Ping Koy Lam from ANU’s Quantum Optics group.

Lasers are used to generate random numbers, which are turned into a ‘one-time pad’. This one-time pad is an encryption technique, where there’s only one code for each letter, so a code cannot be reused for an attacker to analyse and make links between characters and messages.

QuintessenceLabs wants to develop a global network of this technology for governments that need to share highly classified information with other governments around the world or companies that have offices in many countries.

“To do that, we need to transfer information just like we are doing now with fibre optics network from one place to another through many stations. What you need to do then is guarantee that even at the stations the information remains secure.

“So the technology we are working on now is called a quantum repeater. The analogy can be it’s like fibre optic repeater [stations],” Lam explained.

Lam said it’s like having data sent to outer space, delivered through a quantum entanglement with satellites being the repeater stations or where data is disseminated to other stations.

“If industries such as banking or even government agencies look to adopt some of this new encryption technique, that’s when we will see a real change over to encrypting to the new method.”

Lam said he was proud that QuintessenceLabs has been recognised internationally for its efforts and has managed to use research coming out of academia or university to find a real world business application. This is something that should be a key objective for universities, he said.

He said the company already has Westpac, IBM and Lockheed Martin using the technology.

“To have scientific discovery for the sake of our understanding is fantastic but it would be so much better if we can turn this into something that is useful or benefit society,” he said.