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Quantum cryptography demo is a security first

Researchers demonstrate combination of quantum data encryption, quantum key distribution.

By Network World Staff,
September 01, 2006 04:48 PM ET - Northwestern University researchers have joined forces with BBN Technologies to demonstrate what they are calling the first truly quantum cryptographic data network.

The university has combined its quantum noise-protected data-encryption technology with quantum key distribution technology from BBN on a 5.5-mile SONET link between BBN headquarters and Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Quantum cryptography uses single photons of light to distribute keys to encrypt and decrypt messages. Because quantum particles are changed by any observation or measurement, even the simplest attempt at snooping on the network interrupts the flow of data and alerts administrators.

Prem Kumar, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern's School of Engineering and Applied Science, said such technology is needed to safeguard the growing volumes of data being sent across increasingly fast networks.

Previous tests of Kumar's technology involved use of pre-shared encryption keys, whereas the quantum key distribution system is considered much more secure because it constantly provides refreshed keys.

BBN has built and shown a network exploiting quantum cryptography in Boston and Cambridge.

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