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BT and Toshiba reveal UK’s first 'unhackable' quantum-secure network

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Every once in a while, a company comes out with a bold statement about an “unhackable” or “unbreakable” product, not only raising eyebrows, but also motivating hackers to launch assaults on the service.

The latest statement of this kind comes from BT and Toshiba Europe, who claim to have built an impenetrable quantum-secure network.

It’s not a commercial product, but rather an industrial deployment between the National Composites Centre (NCC) and the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS) not-for-profit.

The network allows for the sharing of encryption keys between locations using a stream of single photons, securing data traffic between key industrial sites.

Until now, keys have been shared physically, with portable storage devices sent between the NCC and CFMS sites in Emerson’s Green and Filton in Bristol.

Toshiba and BT say the new solution is not only more secure, but also infinitely faster; the data will travel over 6 kilometers of fiber optic cable, using standard Openreach fibre.

Toshiba’s QKD system enables the distribution of thousands of cryptographic keys per second, the company claims, with a maximum range of 120 kilometers.

“This first industrial deployment of a quantum-secure network in the UK is a significant milestone as we move towards a quantum-ready economy," said Professor Andrew Lord, Head of Optical Technology at BT.

"We’re excited to be working alongside our long-term partner in Toshiba, as well as the NCC and CFMS as industry-leading bodies in the UK, to demonstrate the ultra-secure nature of quantum cryptography."

“The power of quantum computing offers unprecedented opportunity for UK industry, but this is an essential first step to ensure its power can be harnessed in the right way and without compromising security.”