Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) solves the problem of intercepted fibre optics by taking advantage of the quantum physics notion that light can behave both like a wave and particle.
At each end of the fiber-optic line, QKD systems, which from the outside look like the generic black-box servers you might find in any data center, use lasers to fire data in weak pulses of light, each just a little bigger than a single photon. If any of the pulses’ paths are interrupted and they don’t arrive at the endpoint at the expected nanosecond, the sender and receiver know their communication has been compromised.
“Financial firms see this as a differentiator,” says John Prisco, chief executive officer of Quantum Xchange, the company that’s been operating a cable in the Holland Tunnel since the fall. Prisco says several large banks and asset management firms are testing his gear, but he declined to name them, citing nondisclosure agreements. The companies are considering using QKD to guard their most sensitive secrets, he says, including trading algorithms and customer settlement accounts.
The bottom line is that while mass adoption of quantum key distribution technology remains a long way off, developers are racing to commercialize it before superpowerful quantum computers become more reliable.