- The new patent addresses the critical need to share cryptographic keys over untrusted optical networks and embodies inventions that increase operating distance and simplify deployment.
- This is the company’s third patent that focuses on the long-range requirement of establishing security systems that can remain secure even with the arrival of ultra-high performance quantum computers.
- Whitewood’s IP portfolio and related commercialization efforts illustrate the effectiveness of a public-private partnership in technology transfer that can stimulate innovation to the benefit of the broader U.S. economy.
Whitewood Encryption Systems, Inc., a provider of crypto-security solutions, is pleased to announce that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a Notice of Allowance for a patent application that addresses important practical issues that arise when employing quantum communications techniques to share cryptographic key material over fiber optic networks.
The patent application, which is entitled, “Great Circle Solution to Polarization-based Quantum Communication (QC) in Optical Fiber,” describes an advanced method for correcting the unwanted polarization effects that are encountered in today’s optical fiber networks. This enables the parties wishing to perform secure key exchanges to operate over longer distances and to be less susceptible to signal degradation. The use of the quantum mechanical properties of photons to share secret keys in a way that is fundamentally resistant to eavesdropping or man-in–the-middle attacks has been widely demonstrated in the lab, but practical limitations such as optical distortion have severely limited the number of commercial deployments. Future products that embody this patent would help to address some of those limitations.
The inventors named on the patent include Jane Nordholt and Richard Hughes, who co-founded and co-led the Quantum Communications team at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico for nearly two decades before retiring, and who are now consulting physicists for Whitewood. Their co-inventors are Raymond Newell and Charles Glen Peterson, who are still active researchers at Los Alamos and continue to support Whitewood product development activities.
This patent forms part of a portfolio of intellectual property exclusively licensed by Whitewood to commercialize quantum-based technologies to address the current and future needs for secure cryptography. Last year, the same group of scientists was awarded a patent that allowed for the miniaturization of quantum-based key distribution technology for use on existing optical fiber networks and from satellite to ground. Prior to that, they also received a patent for a technology that dramatically increased the scalability of multi-node networks that employ quantum-based key management techniques.
“It is clear that the unique attributes of quantum mechanics can have a direct benefit on security systems that use cryptography. In particular, quantum mechanics enable behavior that is perfectly random and provides a definitive measure of tampering – both critical aspects of any crypto system,” said Richard Moulds, General Manager at Whitewood. “As the security industry considers the threat of quantum computers and their impact on today’s encryption capabilities, we must raise the security bar. In the medium to long term, this means adopting quantum-resistant algorithms and key management systems. But we can also take action in the short term. Quantum processes can be used today as a true and trusted source of random numbers and are rapidly being seen as a standard of due care when generating cryptographic keys that are fundamentally unpredictable.”
Last year, Whitewood launched its first product that incorporated Los Alamos technology: a quantum-powered random number generator (QRNG) called the Entropy EngineTM. The product solves the problem of entropy generation, the critical base to all cryptographic systems in use today, from encryption, digital signing and PKI to crypto-currency and digital payments.
Entropy is what makes random numbers random — and cryptographic keys that are derived from these random numbers rely on this unpredictability for their security. In the absence of a true random number generator, developers are forced to rely on deterministic software systems to simulate random numbers by capturing apparently random events from the local physical environment, such as user behavior, network activity or other sources of noise.
“It’s an important part of our mission to help technology move from the lab environment to full-scale commercialization,” said Duncan McBranch, Chief Technology Officer at Los Alamos. “Patents such as these lay the foundation for a strong U.S. industry in next-generation cryptographic systems. These systems are required to protect trusted transactions across the public and private sector today, and to guard against future technology breakthroughs that may make current cryptography approaches obsolete.”
Whitewood is a subsidiary company of Allied Minds (LSE: ALM).