Secure data in this rapidly changing technology is one of the greatest challenges as sensitive data is easily available on public platforms posing a greater threat to users. Thus, in recent times one of the most talked about technology is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) which is primarily used to distribute the secret digital keys important for protecting highly sensitive & critical data also due to the low photon loss and decoherence encountered in empty space, satellite-based QKD has the potential to aid in the establishment of a worldwide quantum network.
Recently, The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with QNu labs, which is a Bangalore- based deep tech start-up to develop indigenous Satellite QKD (quantum key distribution) products. Earlier ISRO successfully demonstrated free-space quantum communication over a distance of 300m by live video conferencing at Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad, between two line-of-sight buildings within the campus that proved the potential of India in this new & strong cyber security technology.
What is the Quantum Key Distribution communication method?
Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) was first proposed in the 1970s & came to light in the 1980s is a communication method that uses principles of quantum mechanics, where the sender and recipient of a message produce a shared secret key and use it to encrypt and decrypt messages between different parties. QKD uses multiple combinations of 1s & 0s simultaneously which are called quantum bits or qubits that are difficult to hack as any intrusion with the codes will change the state of the photons & will alert the sender of any significant change.
It is more secure than the Traditional method of classical bits of 1s & 0s that uses electrical & optical fiber that can be more easily hacked. However, these QKD communication method has a limitation in that they cannot travel long distances because of the channel loss that happens when using optical fibers or terrestrial free space, which exponentially lowers the photon transmission rate, & therefore the distance over which QKD is feasible has been limited to a few hundred kilometers & require repeaters after 100-150 km that is called, ‘Quantum repeaters’ are used to amplify the encrypted message to send it further.
Since purely ground-based solutions are unfeasible for a worldwide distribution network due to these constraints. However, by using satellites with top-notch optical connectivity, the communication range may be increased that can prove to be a game changer in secure communication globally for producing private encryption keys between two parties.
A Global perspective on QKD:
- China has formed the largest QKD connection of over 7,400 km distance between Beijing and Vienna with over 32 relay nodes to forward quantum information.
- In the year, 2018 Quantum Xchange’s launched its first QKD network in the United States offering 1,000 km of fiber optic cable and 19 colocation centers along Boston-to-Washington, D.C. & has been specifically made to connect the financial markets to keep their data safe & secure.
- The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ESTI), published the GS QKD 014 protocol in the year 2019 for REST-based key delivery by which devices & applications can request keys from Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) systems.
- The world’s first chip-based quantum key distribution (QKD) system was developed by Toshiba Europe Ltd. for bringing its application to a much wider range of scenarios including Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.
Communication through Quantum Key Distribution technology is more secure than the traditional communication system because of its technicalities and complex procedures that work on the laws of quantum mechanics that would not be vulnerable to attacks from any amount of computational power. To use the QKD communication method super or quantum computers are majorly used that are not easily available in markets that make it further less vulnerable to cyber-attacks thus its inclusion can prove to be a major milestone for cyber security for India and now India with Satellite QKD capability holds the potential to become a world leader in creating Quantum Secure Communication Network & further introducing QKD in various other sectors such as healthcare, finance industry, daily communication networks, etc. can be beneficial for both the government as well the users.
Even though this technology was commercially available for many years studies and experiments are going on to make this technology more compact, cheaper & capable of traveling long distances which will eventually help countries to use it in different fields of data communication & storage.
- Indian start-up partners with ISRO to develop satellite-based QKD secure communication – Science News (wionews.com)
- ISRO Makes A Quantum Communication Breakthrough: India Joins The Elite (analyticsindiamag.com)
- Unlocking Quantum Key Distribution for Space Asset Cybersecurity | The Aerospace Corporation
- China Demonstrates World’s Largest Stable QKD Network (analyticsindiamag.com)
- What is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and How Does it Work? (techtarget.com) Author: Ms. Sakshi Singh, Intern, CyberPeace Foundation