Defending quantum-based data with quantum-level security: a UK trial looks to the future

Telecommunications giant BT is testing secure quantum data transmission over a network in what could be a glimpse into the shape of things to come for cybersecurity in a quantum computing world

British Telecom and Toshiba have launched a trial of what they say is the world's first commercial quantum secured metro network (QSMN) that aims to securely encrypt valuable data and information over standard fibre optic links using quantum key distribution (QKD). The companies will operate the network for an initial period of up to three years.

During this part of the trial, BT and Toshiba are augmenting the existing public key-based, cryptography-based solution for distributing keys with a quantum-based one, which is then future-proof against quantum computers, said Andrew Lord, senior manager of optical research at BT.

andrew lord british telecom Courtesy of British Telecom

Andrew Lord, senior manager of optical research, British Telecom

QKD does not transmit data – it allows the sharing of encryption keys using quantum mechanics to encrypt messages in a way that it is never read by anyone outside of the intended recipient. Quantum computers – which are so far only in development – could quickly crack current public-key cryptography, leaving today’s networks incredibly vulnerable to attacks.

EY, one of the Big Four global accounting firms, is the network's first customer to connect quantum secure data transmission between two of its London offices, one at Canary Wharf in London's Docklands and the other near London Bridge.

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