The advent of quantum technology poses a substantial risk to current security systems, and the country that manages to operate these technologies first will considerably shift the balance of power in its favor. In such an atmosphere, the news that DRDO has made a huge breakthrough in quantum technology is sending ripples across the globe.
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A group of researchers from the DRDO and IIT Delhi effectively assessed the Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) connection between Prayagraj and Vindhyachal in Uttar Pradesh, a distance of more than 100 kilometers, on February 23.
This secure key transmission was demonstrated using a commercial-grade optical fiber that was already on hand. “The performance parameters measured were found to be repetitively within the reported international standards at sifted key rates of up to 10 KHz,” the Ministry of Defense said in a press statement (read below).
“With this success, the country has demonstrated indigenous technology of secure key transfer for bootstrapping military-grade communication security key hierarchy. This technology will enable security agencies to plan a suitable quantum communication network with indigenous technology backbone,” MOD added.
QKD is a secure communications system that allows two parties to exchange randomly generated private keys which are only known by them and may be utilized to encrypt or decrypt messages.
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A unique aspect of QKD is that when a third party attempts to spy on this communication channel, it will cause noticeable abnormalities on both sides. To wiretap on a key, it must be assessed in some manner, and monitoring a quantum system causes disruptions.
Only if eavesdropping is well below specified level may a secure key be created; anything other than that, the link is terminated, resulting in extremely protected communication.
In December 2020, a comparable demonstration was done across a much shorter distance of 12 kilometers between two DRDO sites in Hyderabad, the Defense Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) and Research Centre Imarat (RCI).
DRDO Young Scientists Laboratory produced a Quantum Random Number Generation (QRNG) in the very same month, which “detects random quantum events and converts those into a stream of binary digits.” According to a recent statement from MOD, random numbers play an essential part in numerous domains, including quantum communication, cryptography (key generation, key wrapping, authentication, and so on), scientific simulations, lotteries, and fundamental physics experiments.
Recently, major economies and defense superpowers throughout the world have been engaging in a global quantum race, as this technology has tremendous geopolitical implications.
Quantum networks have the potential to provide unhackable communications, and strong quantum computers capable of doing extremely complicated computations may theoretically overcome many of the encryptions used to safeguard e-mails and Internet transactions in the future.
China Leading The Race?
The United States, Canada, numerous European countries, China, Japan, and South Korea are some of the nations that have formed ambitious goals and devoted significant funds to the advancement of quantum technology.
Senior DRDO researchers and defense officials, on the other hand, warn that India’s advances must be viewed in the light of China’s claims.
“My concern is China leading the race. It established the first Quantum Satellite Network and distributed entangled photons between three terrestrial base stations separated by 1200 km. Quantum is at the heart of China’s 13th five-year plan.
Chinese dominated in Quantum Computing patents in the last four years. As if this was not enough, the global investments in quantum computing are also growing,” Lieutenant General Rajesh Pant, India’s National Cyber Security Coordinator, said during an International Symposium on Quantum Information Technology in Pune in 2019.
Researchers from Shanghai Jiaotong University and Jiangxi Normal University claimed to have made “a crucial breakthrough” with the establishment of a 15-user quantum secure direct communication (QSDC) network in September 2021, according to Chinese official media.
QSDC is a type of quantum-based communication technology that can be used to send data straight over a secure quantum channel, as opposed to QKD, which is only used to transfer encryption keys.
A group of researchers from China’s University of Science and Technology, headed by associate professor Zhou Zongquan, claimed during the last week of January 2022 that they had created a quantum computer with a memory that can store and update quantum information while a computation is being performed, as opposed to established quantum computers that forget a calculation as soon as it is completed.
This accomplishment, according to the Chinese scientists, has pushed them one step closer to constructing a code-breaking computer.
The technological advancements in this sector are still in their early stages, with no known practical applications. However, the advent of quantum technologies poses a substantial risk to current security systems, and the country that manages to operate these technologies first will considerably shift the balance of power in its favor.
Read the press release below: