Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Quantum Technology: Reshaping The Landscape Of Secure Communication

Captain Ritesh Wahi

The proliferation of Quantum Technology in today’s world is expected to enhance computing efficiency compared to classical computing in multifold ways. Although Quantum Technology has applications in various topics like computing, sensing, batteries, radars etc., the primary and most mature area of its application is Quantum Communication. The advancement in research in the field of Quantum Communication is expected to revolutionise the communication infrastructure with the deployment of Post Quantum Cryptography (PQC), Quantum Random Number Generators (QRNG) and Quantum Key Distribution (QKD). 

Entanglement, Superposition, & No-Cloning: The Core Principles Of Quantum Mechanics

The primitives of Quantum Mechanics lie in three basic principles of photons, i.e. Entanglement, Superposition and No-cloning. The combination of these three properties in photon behaviour makes it possible to securely exchange information between two systems distant apart from each other. Unlike classical computing, which uses classical 0s and 1s, a Quantum Computer uses Qubits. The use of Qubits in Quantum Computing has exponentially enhanced the computational power of Quantum Computers compared to classical computers. Shor’s algorithm promises to break the RSA (Public Key Encryption algorithm) in polynomial time, thereby posing a threat to the Public Key infrastructure.

Representational Image

In order to safeguard classified information from adversaries, the Public Key or asymmetric algorithms deployed in today’s network shall be replaced by PQC algorithms in the near future. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has already declared Crystal-Kyber as the new asymmetric algorithm, safe from attack by Quantum Computers. Further, to ensure true randomness for cryptographic and similar requirements, researchers have found ways to derive high entropy random data by measuring photonic behaviour. The high entropy Quantum Random Number Generators provide true randomness in generating truly random keys for cryptographic purposes.

One of Quantum Technology’s key applications is in the Cryptographic Key Distribution field. Researchers and industries have demonstrated the teleportation of entangled photons under superposition to distribute secret keys over dark fibre for long distances. Although the said technology is challenged by noise and other interferences in the terrestrial network, research and development (R&D) for distributing secret keys over satellite links is underway. Presently, these keys for exchanging classified data in Government-to-Government (G2G) communication are undertaken manually. However, QKD technology promises to securely deliver keys using terrestrial/ satellite links, thereby eliminating the possibility of a man-in-the-middle attack.

Collaboration Between Raman Research Institute & Weapons & Electronic Systems Engineering Establishment 

The exchange of secret keys is not feasible using the terrestrial QKD network between afloat and ashore units; however same can be achieved using satellite as the backbone. Scientists have demonstrated that a satellite with a payload capable of transmitting photons with a Quantum entangled source can be used to exchange secret keys. Although the technology is in the research stages, association with researchers and industries undertaking the design and development of space-based QKD networks is of utmost importance for Government establishments.

Raman Research Institute (RRI), Bangalore, has pioneered the research in Quantum Communcation in India. The current research areas include experimental secure quantum communications, including QKD in free space, fibre and integrated photonics, Quantum Teleportation as well as Device Independent random number generation; higher dimensional Quantum Information processing, including photonic Quantum Computing; fundamental tests in Quantum Optics and Quantum Mechanics including generalised measurements and various studies based on static and dynamic properties of entanglement. One of the key projects being led by the institute is a collaborative project between RRI and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) called ‘Quantum Experiments with Satellite Technology’, which is India’s first funded project on satellite-based long-distance Quantum Communications.

MoU Signing between WESEE & RRI; Photo Courtesy/Indian Navy

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between Weapons and Electronic Systems Engineering Establishment (WESEE) and RRI for collaboration towards developing secure Quantum Communication for maritime use cases. The broad objective of this MoU for research and technology development in Quantum Communication is to cooperate and promote collaborative and cooperative research, facilitate the exchange of ideas, develop new knowledge and technology, and enhance high-quality research. The major research thrust on which the parties will cooperate is primarily maritime QKD between afloat and ashore networks. Both parties will make efforts to address the advanced technological solutions and development of implementable/outcome base projects.

Capt. Ritesh Wahi was commissioned in the Indian Navy on 1 January 2005. He completed his BTech in Electrical and Electronics from Naval College of Engineering and MTech in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT Kharagpur. He is presently posted at Weapons & Electronic Systems Engineering Establishment (WESEE), New Delhi. The officer holds the renowned industry certification of Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and complements his academic know-how with product and project management skills in order to create new concepts and information security solutions for the Indian Navy.

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