TranscriptRene: Hi welcome to QuBites, your bite size pieces of quantum computing. My name is Rene from Valorem Reply and today we're going to talk about quantum security and all the benefits that quantum mechanics are offering to our security infrastructure. And I’m very honored to have a special expert guest today, Lea Jäntgen. And you might remember her from a previous episode where we talked about all the threats that quantum computing is [introducing to] our security infrastructure. But today we're going to talk about how you can actually take advantage of quantum computing and quantum mechanics for your security infrastructure. [A look at] both sides, right? Hi Lea and welcome to the show! How are you today?
Lea: Hi Rene! Yeah, thank you, I'm good.
Rene: Awesome! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as it relates to quantum computing and security?
Lea: So, I'm working here in Germany for Spike Reply, we're IT security [specialists, based in] Germany. My background is actually in business informatics and I really like [the intersection of] security [and] business topics. [As for my experience in] quantum computing, I'm part of the COP (Community of Practice) at Reply. And yeah, I like to combine these three [areas of study to hypothesize] what cool things are in the future for us.
Rene: Well, that’s a perfect match for our show here. Business, quantum and security, the triangle [of expertise], that's awesome. So, let's dive right into the topic. What is quantum security all about?
Lea: Yeah, so when we talk about quantum security, we actually talk about two sides of a coin. So one is, as I mentioned in the last episode, threats to security [as a result of] quantum computing. [In other words,] what do I have to prepare for? What can I expect? What’s the uncertainty or risk here? The other side is, how can we use quantum computing to maybe make our security stronger and better? And this is what we want to talk about today.
Rene: Yeah, absolutely. So, what kind of [security] benefits can quantum computing actually provide via applied quantum mechanics? Like how can you take advantage of basically the laws of our nature at it’s smallest dimension? How can you use [quantum computing] for security and cryptography and key transmission and that kind of stuff?
Lea: Quantum computing in general is a new tool that we have, right? So we can implement new algorithms. For example, new encryption algorithms based on quantum computing principles. But we can also use it in a way that we make, for example, key distribution safe or that we can detect man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, which is a very hard topic in current security- that we don't really [when there are] man-in-the-middle attacks. So, quantum key distribution actually works with a fiber cable, a quantum secure channel - basically a physical channel, and you can detect a man in the middle inside this channel because of the way quantum computing works. The photons get changed if somebody looks at them in the middle. So, once we have implemented this channel we know that there might be a man in the middle and we can use this channel to [create] symmetric encryption and make the key distribution. [This way,] we're certain that the key is not [compromised], so there's no man in the middles. And if there is [a compromise], we can just try again [with a] new key exchange.
Rene: So, could you describe it as like a read once key exchange? Because once you read it and [see that] a man in the middle [could have] read it, [you] would change the key again, right? And so, [on] the [key] receiving side, you would know about [a security breach]. So [any one key] can only [be] read once basically, at the receiving side, right?
Lea: Yeah, exactly. [Once the key has been received] the state of the photons will change and I know [as the receiver if the photons have changed] ‘oh this is not what I expected, there must be somebody in the middle.’ So I tell [the] other person to send me a new key until we know that there was no one in middle.
Rene: That totally makes sense, I mean that's some of the basics of quantum mechanics and it's pretty awesome that you can apply it [to improve security]. Do you know if this [technique is] currently already applied and can you share some examples of real-world use cases you have seen out there?
Lea: Yeah, sure. So, I'm focusing here more on a European market, [though] there are some examples in the US as well. [In Europe] there are a lot of trials by universities and governments. For governments [a use case] for example, you could do secure elections via this. Or for telecommunications, it's really cool because you can ensure that the communication is safe. So there a lot of trials there that are being built. One example is in Italy they want to lay their cable through all of Italy to actually test out how well this is working. In the UK they also do that in London, which is called UKQN. I believe QN stands for quantum network. The Italian one is called quantum backbone of the company. And the idea is to actually [lay cable] over all of Europe so that you have these quantum secure channels in all of Europe. So far, it's not used in a very productive state. It is more used by researchers and by universities to see what can we do in the future. So as I mentioned, telecommunications, government and universities these are the most [common industries] that have done research on this topic at the moment.
Rene: Awesome. Well, that makes a lot of sense and it's great that there's like a public infrastructure being built which we could probably then tie into for private services or other kind of things that can be done. Thank you so much Lea, we’re already at the end of the show. We could talk for [many] more hours [about quantum security I’m sure]. Maybe we'll have you at some of the next episodes [to continue our discussions]. [Until then,] thanks so much for joining us today [and] sharing your insights, very much appreciated
Lea: Yep, thank you!
Rene: And thanks everyone for joining us today for another episode of QuBites, your bite size pieces of quantum computing. Watch our blog and our social media channels to know all about future episodes and when we post them. Take care, stay safe, and see you soon. Bye bye!