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Toshiba maps quantum future

Disentangling crypto

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Physicists at Toshiba's Cambridge research labs have mapped out their vision of the next three generations of IT security.

Speaking at an event put together by the Cambridge-MIT partnership, Toshiba scientist Andrew Shields described how current quantum key distribution systems like MagiQ will be superseded.

Though it apparently produces unbreakable encrypted optical comms, the current generation, which has been sold to a few defence agencies and telco R&D departments, relies on a variety of fudges to run. The weak laser light source cannot produce the individual photons an ideal quantum crypto solution would have.

Shields said his team are well on the way to solving this problem, which cuts down both the bit rate that quantum-encrypted fibre can run at, and the distance the signal can travel, limited to around 120km.

Once that mountain has been climbed, further down the line will be to use quantum entanglement, which will become a future-proof, gold standard in cryptography. Advances in "quantum teleportation" will mean keys can be sent anwhere in the world with complete security.

Before a full-blown quantum crypto industry can emerge, he added, standards will have to be developed so that customers know what they're getting. He said: "[Currently] there's no way [for customers] of telling what's in the box does any of this."®

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