Thanks to a group of international scientists who created a unique prototype that can change the way we communicate online, the world is one step closer to having a completely secure Internet and responding to the growing threat of cyber attacks.
The invention, led by the University of Bristol, was disclosed in Science Advances. It has the potential to provide services to millions of users and is considered the largest quantum network in history. It can be used to protect people’s online communication, especially to accelerate these Internet-led eras.
By deploying a new technology, using simple laws of physics, it can make messages completely immune to interception, while also overcoming the major challenges of previously seldom used but limited by hyped technology.
Dr. Siddarth Joshi, the lead author of the project in the quantum engineering technology (QET) laboratory of the university, said: “This represents a huge breakthrough and makes the quantum Internet a more realistic proposition. So far, the establishment of a quantum network requires huge costs, time and resources, and often compromise its security, thereby destroying the entire goal.”
“Our solution is scalable, relatively cheap, and most importantly impermeable. This means that it is an exciting game changer, paving the way for the faster development and widespread adoption of this technology. “
The current Internet relies on complex codes to protect information, but hackers are becoming increasingly adept at making such systems smarter, leading to worldwide cyber attacks. These attacks cause significant privacy leaks and frauds of billions of pounds each year. Such costs are expected to rise sharply, so the reasons for finding alternatives are even more compelling. And for decades, quantum has been regarded as a revolutionary alternative to standard encryption technology.
So far, physicists have developed a secure form of encryption called quantum key distribution in which light particles called photons can be propagated. This process allows two parties to share the secret key used to encrypt and decrypt information without the risk of being intercepted. But the technology is now only effective between two users.
“Until now, efforts to expand the network have involved a huge infrastructure and system that requires the creation of another sender and receiver for each other user. Dr. Joshi said: “Share messages in this way (known as trusted node) is not good enough because it uses too much extra hardware, which may leak and will no longer be completely safe. “
The team’s quantum technology uses a seemingly magical principle, the so-called entanglement, which Albert Einstein described as “a weird action at a distance.” It uses the power of two different particles placed in different locations (possibly thousands of miles apart) to mimic each other. This process provides more opportunities for quantum computers, sensors and information processing.
Dr. Josh said: “This latest method is called multiplexing. Instead of duplicating the entire communication system, it separates the light particles emitted by a single system so that it can be effectively received by multiple users.”
The team created a network for eight users using only eight receiver boxes, while the former method requires multiplying the number of users multiple times: in this case, a total of 56 boxes. As the number of users increases, logistics becomes less and less feasible. For example, 100 users will require 9,900 receiver boxes.
To demonstrate its capabilities across distances, the receiver box was connected to optical fibers through various locations in Bristol, and the city’s existing optical fiber network was used to test the ability to transmit messages via quantum communication.
Dr. Josh said: “In addition to being completely safe, the advantage of this new technology lies in its streamlined agility, because it integrates with existing technologies and therefore requires minimal hardware.”
The team’s unique system also has traffic management capabilities that provide better network control, like allowing certain users to get priority with faster connections.
The previous quantum system costs millions or even billions of pounds to build, but the network costs less than 300,000 pounds in less than a few months. As the network expands, the financial advantage will continue to grow. Therefore, although the cost of 100 users of the previous quantum system may be around 5 billion pounds, Dr. Josh believes that multiplexing technology may reduce it to about 4,500,000 pounds, less than 1%.
In recent years, quantum cryptography has been successfully used to protect transactions between Chinese banking centers and win votes in Swiss elections. However, its huge application is hindered by the huge resources and costs involved.
“With these economies of scale, the prospect of realizing a universal quantum Internet is not so remote. We have proven this concept and optimized and shared resources in the network by further optimizing our multiplexing method. In the near future, we can not only serve hundreds of users, but also millions of users.”
The consequences not only show the importance and potential of the Internet and our increasing dependence on the Internet, but also indicate that its absolute security is essential. Multiple entanglements may become the key to making this security a much-needed reality. “