Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have made great strides over the past two decades in exploiting unusual features of quantum mechanics to secure information against hackers. Originally funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program, the technology works by harnessing the quantum properties of light to create and manage cryptographic keys with unprecedented security.
Unlike current encryption systems, which rely on the assumed difficulty of solving a hard math problem, quantum cryptography systems base their security on immutable laws of physics. Consequently, the system will remain secure even as adversaries’ skill and computing power grow. This technology enables a completely new commercial platform for realtime encryption at high data rates.
In addition, the LANL team has developed a compact random-number-generation technology that seeds cryptographic key generation based on the truly random quantum-optical states of light particles known as photons. Because the randomness of this optical state is based on quantum mechanics, an adversary cannot predict the outcome of this random number generator. This represents a vast improvement over current "random-number" generators that are based on mathematical formulas that can be broken by a computer with sufficient speed and power.
This past year LANL signed an exclusive license agreement with Whitewood Encryption Systems, Inc. of Boston, Mass., a wholly owned subsidiary of Allied Minds for several Los Alamos-created quantum encryption patents in exchange for consideration in the form of licensing fees. Whitewood plans to bring the potential for truly secure data encryption to the marketplace after nearly 20 years of development at the nation's premier national-security science laboratory. Whitewood will be addressing scalability, one of the most difficult problems in securing modern communications. The company must do this at low-cost, low-latency, and within high-security systems to effectively service increasingly complex data security needs.