Patent for Fiber Optic Security

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 @ 02:02 PM gHale

An application is in development that addresses practical issues that arise when using quantum communications techniques to share cryptographic key material over fiber optic networks.

Whitewood Encryption Systems, Inc. has a patent pending on the application.

The patent application, entitled “Great Circle Solution to Polarization-based Quantum Communication (QC) in Optical Fiber,” describes an advanced method for correcting the unwanted polarization effects encountered in today’s optical fiber networks.

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The application enables the parties wishing to perform secure key exchanges to operate over longer distances and to be less susceptible to signal degradation.

The use of the quantum mechanical properties of photons to share secret keys in a way that is fundamentally resistant to eavesdropping or man-in–the-middle attacks has been widely demonstrated in the lab, but practical limitations such as optical distortion have severely limited the number of commercial deployments. Future products that embody this patent would help to address some of those limitations.

The inventors named on the patent include Jane Nordholt and Richard Hughes, who co-founded and co-led the Quantum Communications team at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico for nearly two decades before retiring, and who are now consulting physicists for Whitewood.  Their co-inventors are Raymond Newell and Charles Glen Peterson, who are still active researchers at Los Alamos and continue to support Whitewood product development activities.

This patent forms part of a portfolio of intellectual property licensed by Whitewood to commercialize quantum-based technologies to address the current and future needs for secure cryptography.

Last year, the same group of scientists earned a patent that allowed for the miniaturization of quantum-based key distribution technology for use on existing optical fiber networks and from satellite to ground. Prior to that, they also received a patent for a technology that dramatically increased the scalability of multi-node networks that employ quantum-based key management techniques.

Security System Benefit
“It is clear that the unique attributes of quantum mechanics can have a direct benefit on security systems that use cryptography,” said Richard Moulds, Vice President of Strategy at Whitewood. “In particular, quantum mechanics enable behavior that is perfectly random and provides a definitive measure of tampering – both critical aspects of any crypto system. As the security industry considers the threat of quantum computers and their impact on today’s encryption capabilities, we must raise the security bar. In the medium to long term, this means adopting quantum-resistant algorithms and key management systems. But we can also take action in the short term. Quantum processes can be used today as a true and trusted source of random numbers and are rapidly being seen as a standard of due care when generating cryptographic keys that are fundamentally unpredictable.”

Last year, Whitewood launched its first product that incorporated Los Alamos technology: A quantum-powered random number generator (QRNG) called the Entropy Engine. The product solves the problem of entropy generation, the critical base to all cryptographic systems in use today, from encryption, digital signing and PKI to crypto-currency and digital payments.

Entropy is what makes random numbers random — and cryptographic keys derived from these random numbers rely on this unpredictability for their security. In the absence of a true random number generator, developers are forced to rely on deterministic software systems to simulate random numbers by capturing apparently random events from the local physical environment, such as user behavior, network activity or other sources of noise.