Strengthening cyber security with light

Dr James Grieve of CQT (left) and Dr Amelia Tan of Trustwave, Singtel’s cyber security subsidiary, are members of the research team

A research team from the NUS-Singtel Cyber Security Research & Development Laboratory has developed an innovation that allows pairs of light particles to smoothly navigate the complex underground networks of optical fibres that carry data to homes and offices. This new development will enable stronger cyber security, an area increasingly in demand by governments and companies.

The technique uses a technology known as quantum key distribution (QKD), which uses signals sent in particles of light known as photons over fibre networks, creating encryption keys for secure communication. Data encrypted with such keys is resistant to all computational hacks. The technique was demonstrated over more than 10 kilometres of Singtel’s fibre network.

The QKD trials, led by Associate Professor Alexander Ling, a Principal Investigator at the Centre for Quantum Technologies, were carried out using photons connected in pairs by the quantum property of entanglement. The method keeps the entangled photons in sync as they travel on different paths and obstacles through the network, and allows the security of a key provided by a third party supplier to be checked.

The success of the results, published 4 April 2019 in the scientific journal Applied Physics Letters, demonstrates potential applications for the entangled photons, such as in synchronising clocks for time-critical operations like financial trading, and could boost expectations for QKD over commercial fibre networks.

See press release.