Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NIST Quantum Keys System Sets Speed Record For 'Unbreakable' Encryption

Date:
May 3, 2004
Source:
National Institute Of Standards And Technology
Summary:
The fastest known cryptographic system based on transmission of single photons---the smallest pulses of light---has been demonstrated by a team at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The fastest known cryptographic system based on transmission of single photons---the smallest pulses of light---has been demonstrated by a team at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The transmissions cannot be intercepted without detection, so that messages encrypted with the system can be kept secret.

The NIST "quantum key distribution" (QKD) system transmits a stream of individual photons to generate a verifiably secret key--a random series of digital bits, each representing 0 or 1, used to encrypt messages--at a rate of 1 million bits per second (bps). This rate is about 100 times faster than previously reported systems of this type.

The demonstration, described in the May 3 issue of Optics Express,* is the first major reported result from a new NIST testbed built to demonstrate quantum communications technologies and cryptographic key distribution. The testbed provides a measurement and standards infrastructure for research, testing, calibrations and technology development. Scientists tested the QKD system by generating an encryption key that could be sent back and forth between two NIST buildings that are 730 meters apart. They are using the testbed to develop data-handling techniques associated with this type of encryption.

Acadia Optronics LLC of Rockville, Md., consulted on the system design and hardware. Partial funding for the project was provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Quantum systems--exploiting the laws of quantum mechanics--are expected to provide the next big advance in data encryption. The beauty of quantum key distribution is its sensitivity to measurements made by an eavesdropper. This sensitivity makes it possible to ensure the secrecy of the key and, hence, the encrypted message. The keys are generated by transmitting single photons that are polarized, or oriented, in one of four possible ways. An eavesdropper reading the transmission causes detectable changes at the receiver. When such changes are observed, the associated key is not used for encryption.

Compared to previously described QKD systems, the major difference in the NIST system is the way it identifies a photon from the sender among a large number of photons from other sources, such as the sun. To make this distinction, scientists time-stamp the QKD photons, then look for them only when one is expected to arrive.

"To be effective, this observation time has to be very short," says NIST physicist Joshua Bienfang. "But the more often you can make these very brief observations, then the faster you can generate keys. We have adapted some techniques used in high-speed telecommunications to increase significantly the rate at which we can look for photons."

The NIST team has packaged data-handling electronics operating in the gigahertz (1 billion bits per second) range in a pair of programmable printed circuited boards that plug into standard PCs. Photon losses caused by imperfections in the photon sources and detectors, optics and procedures reduce the key generation rate. However, 1 million bps makes QKD practical for a variety of new applications, such as large network distributions or streaming encrypted video.

"We are processing data much faster with this hardware than can currently be done with software," says NIST electrical engineer Alan Mink. "You would need a computer processing at more than 100 GHz (about 50 times faster than current PCs) to do it with software and you still couldn't do it fast enough because the operating system would slow you down."

The NIST quantum system uses an infrared laser to generate the photons and telescopes with 8-inch mirrors to send and receive the photons over the air. The data are processed in real time by printed circuit boards designed and built at NIST, so that a computer produces ready-made keys. NIST researchers also developed a high-speed approach to error correction.

Further research is planned to improve the system, primarily by addressing the need for faster photon detectors, the principal barrier to the development of practical systems for more widespread use. The group plans to incorporate NIST-developed photon sources and detectors. More information about NIST's quantum information program can be found at http://qubit.nist.gov.

###As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST develops and promotes measurement, standards and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade and improve the quality of life.

For additional information on quantum cryptography see: http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/quantumkeys_background.htm

*Optics Express is the online rapid publication journal of the Optical Society of America. See: http://www.opticsexpress.org.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute Of Standards And Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Institute Of Standards And Technology. "NIST Quantum Keys System Sets Speed Record For 'Unbreakable' Encryption." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/05/040503053717.htm>.
National Institute Of Standards And Technology. (2004, May 3). NIST Quantum Keys System Sets Speed Record For 'Unbreakable' Encryption. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/05/040503053717.htm
National Institute Of Standards And Technology. "NIST Quantum Keys System Sets Speed Record For 'Unbreakable' Encryption." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/05/040503053717.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Computers & Math News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Teen's Phone Ignites Under Her Pillow; How Real Is The Risk?

Teen's Phone Ignites Under Her Pillow; How Real Is The Risk?

Newsy (July 28, 2014) A Texas teen's Samsung phone apparently ignited while she slept, but what was the real problem here? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Newsy (July 27, 2014) Google is collecting genetic and molecular information to paint a picture of the perfectly healthy human. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cellphone Unlocking Bill Clears U.S. House, Heads to Obama

Cellphone Unlocking Bill Clears U.S. House, Heads to Obama

Reuters - US Online Video (July 27, 2014) Congress gets rid of pesky law that made it illegal to "unlock" mobile phones without permission, giving consumers the option to use the same phone on a competitor's wireless network. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Congress OKs Unlocking Phones From Carriers

Congress OKs Unlocking Phones From Carriers

Newsy (July 26, 2014) A bill legalizing "unlocking," or untethering a phone from its default wireless carrier, has passed Congress and is expected to be signed into law. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins