EMPIR project on data security sees early uptake and prestigious journal publication

Image showing global communication network
Global communication network

New test standards to support innovative quantum key distribution-based security solutions

The project

Data is one of the world’s most valuable commodities – affecting every person, every company, every government, everywhere. Never before has it been so important to store and communicate this data in a secure manner. Most of the world’s cybersecurity infrastructure is based on the exchange and use of digital cryptographic keys. This has been very effective so far, however advances in quantum computing have dramatically raised the threat to this infrastructure.

EMPIR project Metrology for testing the implementation security of quantum key distribution hardware (19NRM06, MeTISQ) is working to develop robust, SI-traceable measurements, at the single-photon level, to characterise quantum key distribution systems and technologies. Quantum key distribution (QKD) is a communication approach designed to ensure privacy using quantum information encoded in light signals.

Early uptake

Two early uptakes emerged from the project, in collaboration with external companies:

  • a QKD Trusted Node station, integrating classical cryptography with QKD systems, that was completed and implemented in the Italian Quantum Backbone, an 1800 km infrastructure used as a testbed to develop novel technologies
  • a portable single-photon optical time domain reflectometer (SP-OTDR) apparatus (at wavelengths 1310 nm and 1550 nm), that represents a fundamental and invaluable device exploitable for investigation of possible weak points and possible sources of information leakage of practical implementations of QKD systems, optical links and networks

Publication in Nature Communications

An experimental study on the real-world implementation of Twin-Field QKD as an anti-hacking-detectors solution: this research is very relevant for the practical security of QKD systems and was published in Nature Communications.

Coherent phase transfer for real-world twin-field quantum key distribution | Nature Communications

Project Coordinator Marco Gramegna from INRIM said

‘All the outcomes of this project are contributing to building a common strategy for testing the implementation security of QKD hardware and supporting the deployment of quantum communication networks in Europe. The SI traceable calibration facilities developed in this project will be accessible to industry and research labs thanks to their inclusion in the EMN-Q metrology service portfolio, to serve the rapidly-growing needs in the field of secure communication and in particular in view of the realisation of the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure and national quantum networks within the EURAMET area. Moreover, the test methods and protocols will be used for the drafting of documentary standards of the ETSI ISG QKD, the chief stakeholder of the project. Standardisation represents a fundamental contribution towards the highly demanded certification of QKD technology’.

This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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