Network communications encrypted using next-gen cryptography will be unbreakable, future-proof, and will allow for early intervention and mitigation.
The global pandemic is causing an irreversible rise in double-threat ransomware, data theft and sophisticated supply-chain attacks. Fortunately, cybercriminals have been hampered by enterprise-level data encryption, which they have not been able to bypass easily.
However, with the advent of quantum computing, even this data protection method is under threat. With massive computing power within reach, cybercriminals can find ways to crack encryption algorithms.
University research collaborations in Indonesia and Thailand have already demonstrated the practical applications of quantum computers in cryptography, and cybercriminals are also watching the developments closely.
This is why Toshiba’s work in quantum-cybersecurity research is set to level the playing field against malicious actors. In late August this year, the firm announced a collaboration with a Singapore-based quantum technology firm SpeQtral, to offer quantum secure communications solutions powered by Toshiba’s Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology.
What is Quantum Key Distribution?
Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is used to distribute the secret digital keys important for protecting highly sensitive data critical to many industries. Only when the right digital keys are in hand can recipients access the unlocked data. The problem is that digital keys can be stolen or misappropriated. Cyber hackers can then unlock stolen data with the compromised keys.
The essence of QKD security relies on encoding each bit of the key upon a single photon (particle of light) transmitted, for example through an ordinary optical fiber. As any attempt to read the photons alters their encoding, and this allows the secrecy of each key to be tested and guaranteed. Unlike other existing security solutions, QKD is secure from all future advances in mathematics and computing, including the data processing power of a quantum computer.
With QKD technology, not only is the encrypted data secure from unlocking, but any hacking attempts on the digital keys can be detected at an early stage, ensuring that the data and messages are accessible only by the intended recipient.
In Southeast Asia, the National University of Singapore is working to make QKD technology available to the wider industry to incubate a new class of “quantum-resilient encryptors” in financial services, government and healthcare sectors that work with highly sensitive data.
Thailand also has a strong quantum cryptographic research sector. Chiang Mai University has collaborated with the Thailand Centre of Excellence in Physics on single-atom trapping systems; other universities exploring quantum technology include the Suranaree University of Technology; National Institute of Metrology, and even a social enterprise, Quantum Technology Foundation of Thailand. The country regularly works with world research laboratories in America, China, Japan, and Russia to exchange research ideas.
From the secure transmission of sensitive genomic data, to data transfers between critical industrial infrastructure, uses cases of QKD in today’s cybersecurity landscape are innumerable.
According to Mr Hiroshi Fukuchi, Corporate Representative – Asia Pacific, Toshiba Corporation and Managing Director, Toshiba Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd.: “Southeast Asia is a vast potential market and development base for QKD. Toshiba has established industry partnerships in our early deployments of quantum technology in Japan, the US, and the UK. We are excited to be part of the QKD industry’s global expansion and commercialization in Singapore and Southeast Asia.”
Tackling cybercrime with QKD
Back in 2003, Toshiba was already a pioneer in researching quantum cryptography at the Cambridge Research Laboratory of Toshiba Research Europe Limited. By 2004, the conglomerate had become the first to announce quantum key distribution over 100 kilometers of fiber, and the first to achieve a continuous key rate exceeding 1Mbps in 2010, followed by 10Mbps in 2017.
Now, with the global acceleration of digital transformation, the volume of digital data in use and at rest will skyrocket exponentially. Along with this trend we are already witnessing a massive escalation of cybercriminal threats to steal and monetize valuable data.
This is where Toshiba’s QKD technology will be more pertinent than ever. The collaboration with SpeQtral will help potential users in Southeast Asia understand the need for and consider the implementation of QKD solutions to secure their communications, with free knowledge-sharing webinars and workshops as a starting point.
As a global hub for financial applications, Singapore in particular serves as a focal point for telecommunications, data centers, and cloud connectivity infrastructure. These industries process extremely important and high-value data, and it is crucial to continually review the security of these communications and upgrade current systems to address future threats.
Additionally, as each organization has unique data connectivity configuration and security requirements, the SpeQtral-Toshiba collaboration will help provide QKD solutions to ensure needs are addressed.
Leading the world in QKD development
Toshiba’s decades of quantum research have led to the development of two practical QKD devices for installation in multiplexed (up to 70km) and long-distance (up to 120km) usage scenarios.
Being designed for flexible and cost-effective deployment the two commercially-available products will enable quantum researchers in Southeast Asia and the world to further their research and trial cost effectively and reliably.
Meanwhile, as digital economies emerge from the acceleration of technological adoption, integration of emerging telecommunications infrastructures and deployment of 5G networks, quantum key distribution is an important building block to realize safe data communications.
That is why Toshiba continues to invest in deep research into QKD and related fields of quantum science in order to benefit governments, academia and industry in preemptively blocking off cyber threats.
On a more positive note, the Quantum Internet of the Future is set to bring a new era of beneficial technological progress to the world. This is what Toshiba Corporation — with its stated mission of boosting innovation and trust to contribute to the world at every level — is fully vested in.