Cambridge

Cambridge University has invented an unhackable computer network

Cambridge University has invented an 'unhackable' computer network.

The 'metro' network provides secure quantum communications between three main points in Cambridge – the Electrical Engineering Division at West Cambridge, the Department of Engineering in the city centre and Toshiba Research Europe Ltd on the Science Park.

Cambridge University explains: "Quantum links are so secure because they rely on particles of light, or photons, to transmit encryption keys through the optical fibre.

"Should an attacker attempt to intercept the communication, the key itself changes through the laws of quantum mechanics, rendering the stolen data useless."

Cambridge University has invented an 'unhackable' computer network

Researchers have been testing the ultra-secure network for the last year, generating quantum keys at rates between two and three megabits per second.

Quantum keys are used to securely encrypt data both in transit and storage.

The Cambridge network is a project belonging to the Quantum Communications Hub – a board of eight universities from across the UK, as well as private sector companies and public sector stakeholders.

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The network was created by hub partners including the university's Electrical Engineering Division – one of the secure points – and Toshiba Research Europe.

The UK Quantum Network is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council through the UK's National Quantum Technologies Programme.

It brings together specialists in research and innovation to encourage collaboration.

CAPE Building Electrical Engineering Division. (Image: Keith Heppell)

According to the Cambridge University website, Professor Timothy Spiller of the University of York said: "Through this network, we can further improve quantum communications technologies and interoperability, explore and develop applications and services, and also demonstrate these to potential end users and future customers.

“The development of the UK Quantum Network has already led to a much greater understanding of the potential of this technology in secure applications in a range of fields, in addition to bringing new insights into the operation of the systems in practice,” said Professor Ian White from Cambridges Department of Engineering.

“I have no doubt that the network will bring many benefits in the future to researchers, developers and users.”

The Cambridge Network is 'unhackable'

Dr Liam Blackwell, head of quantum technologies at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) said: “Development of the network has brought together in the quantum communications hub partnership many world-class researchers and facilities from both UK universities and industry.

“This is a reflection of EPSRCs commitment to investing in UK leadership in advanced research and innovation in quantum technologies.”

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