Innovation in Quantum Security

Quantum Key Distribution Standardization to support the transfer of Quantum Key Distribution innovation to a product (ETSI)

Key researcher: Thomas Langer, doctoral student under the direction of Prof. S. Ghernaouti-Hélie

“Since the first practical demonstration of quantum key distribution (QKD) over a distance of few centimeters performed by Bennet et al  in 1993, research and experimental technology experienced ample progress, so that significantly increased key rates and distances can be achieved with contemporary systems. Today, quantum key distribution is no longer confined to large optical tables in laboratories; systems are available for standard 19” racks, capable of automated continuous operation using readily available standard telecom fibers. In the SECOQC project of the 6th Framework Programme of the European Community ( six technologically different systems were operated under realistic assumptions in a quantum key distribution network in Vienna in autumn 2008, feeding user level applications with cryptographic keys. Commercial products for point to point quantum key distribution are today available from at least three small start-up enterprises (id Quantique SA, Carouge Geneva, SmartQuantum Group SA, Lannion-Paris-Houston, MagiQ Technologies Inc., New York, NY) serving a market which is still primarily confined to businesses and research institutions buying the products for experimental evaluation.

Although QKD systems today appear mature compared to the first experimental realizations, major technical improvement is required before a wide scale real-world deployment for qualified use can be considered; and additional requirements are imposed on these systems specifically when a deployment in a commercial environment is considered.  For the integration in existing information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructures, QKD systems need to be compatible to existing interfaces for handling cryptographic keys. They need to be compatible to the way systems and services are managed within ICT infrastructures. Also, prospective operators of QKD systems will have specific functional requirements that are only weakly related to the basic QKD technology. Applications within the banking sector will require system audit capabilities and defined quality of service. Most notably, qualified practical use of QKD requires that QKD systems are trusted by its users, which is usually achieved in a complex assurance procedure including security specification, evaluation, and certification according to a standardized methodology. Especially required for the security certification of QKD systems is a framework for the underlying information theoretical security proofs, which again requires standardized properties of optical components, like photon sources and detectors”.  Thomas Langer