Hooked On Photonics
BBN Technologies principal scientist Chip Elliott says his team has assembled a very secure, 12-mile-long test network of quantum cryptography systems that runs under the streets of Boston and Cambridge. Quantum cryptography, which uses single photons of light to distribute encryption/decryption keys, is considered foolproof because the very act of eavesdropping on the network disrupts the data flow and tips off administrators.
The 10-node BBN network encrypts regular Internet traffic such as Web pages and email, and consists of two sub-networks: One distributes quantum keys and the other transmits the encrypted traffic. The network’s two oldest nodes employ phase-modulated cryptography, while some of the other nodes use entanglement key distribution.
BBN is also experimenting with wireless quantum key distribution via free-space quantum cryptography. Elliott plans to boost the number of network nodes and increase speeds exponentially from the current peak rate of 5 Mbps. Another challenge Elliott wants to meet is the creation of the first quantum cryptography eavesdropping mechanism.
The government is likely to be the initial beneficiary of BBN’s research, given the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s stake in the project; but Elliott expects the deployment of quantum cryptography by financial firms within a few years and by businesses in general within half a decade.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from Network World (05/02/05) Vol. 22, No. 17, P. 1; Schurr, Amy .