2005 Press Releases

BBN Technologies Adds Wireless Capability to World's First Continuously Operating Quantum Cryptography Network

Partnership with QinetiQ Extends DARPA Quantum Network into the Skies

— BBN Technologies, a leading advanced technology and research and development firm, today announced that the world's first operational quantum cryptography network-funded by the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-has now expanded to include its first free space link, enabling quantum keys or communications to be transmitted securely through the air as well as through its existing fiber-based network under the streets of Cambridge, Mass. Supplied by global defense technology and security company QinetiQ Ltd in the UK, this free-space link is operating 24/7.

Free-space quantum cryptography allows the DARPA Quantum Network to expand quickly into areas without fiber cables and ultimately could enable it to perform quantum cryptography to aircraft, automobiles, and boats. A free space link has previously been demonstrated by QinetiQ to be capable of transmitting secure data over a distance of approximately 15 miles, but next-generation free space links will uniquely enable the QCN to transmit securely around the globe via satellite. QinetiQ developed the system with a standard interface to operate with the BBN-supplied quantum cryptography algorithms and software.

"Future quantum cryptography networks will combine both through the air and fiber-optic technologies," said Dr. Brian Lowans, team leader, Quantum & Micro Photonics, Optronics Research & Consulting Business Group of QinetiQ. "Linking QinetiQ's free space technology into BBN Technologies' existing network is the critical first step toward global networks protected by quantum cryptography."

The addition of two new nodes brings the total number of nodes in the network up to 10, with eight (including the two free space link nodes) at BBN's offices in Cambridge, one at Harvard University and another at Boston University.

The DARPA Quantum Network provides extremely high levels of information security guaranteed by the laws of quantum physics. It has been fully operational since June 2004 and is the world's first quantum cryptography network, linking the campuses of BBN Technologies, Harvard University, and Boston University.

"An uncrackable information network has long been a goal for government and financial institutions," said Chip Elliot, principal engineer, BBN Technologies. "With the addition of the free space link nodes, we have demonstrated the potential for a complete quantum cryptography network that's both wired and wireless."

Today, all of the world's seemingly secure networks rely on complex mathematical algorithms to scramble (encrypt) and de-scramble (decrypt) messages that require secure transmission. Although this method can provide high levels of security, it is not infallible. Advances in modern mathematics could suddenly render even the most secure networks vulnerable. A quantum encryption system offers a completely different approach that relies on quantum physics, making it virtually hacker-proof and considered to be the most secure method of transmitting information.

Quantum cryptography uses single photons of light to distribute keys to encrypt and decrypt messages. The security of the system lies in the fact that photons are quantum particles and therefore cannot be viewed without the eavesdropping being apparent.

The DARPA Quantum Network is being built by BBN Technologies along with academic partners. The team is now developing a new generation of devices harnessing the "spooky action at a distance" of quantum entanglement, and ultra-high-speed single-photon detectors.

About QinetiQ
QinetiQ (pronounced ki' ne tik) is a leading global defense technology and security company. Founded In July 2001, from the majority of DERA (Defense Evaluation and Research Agency), the laboratories of the UK MOD, QinetiQ directly employs nearly 10,000 people, including many of the UK's leading scientists and internationally acclaimed experts. Today QinetiQ operates in markets as diverse as defense, security, automotive, information technology, health, aerospace, rail, telecommunications, electronics, space, marine, energy and oil & gas. www.qinetiq.com

About BBN Technologies
BBN Technologies, an advanced technology solutions firm, is focused on solving some of the world's most pressing problems. From national security, information security, speech recognition and language translation, to integrating disparate systems and networks, BBN has been at the forefront of technological change for over 50 years.

Known for pioneering the development of the ARPANET, the forerunner of the Internet, BBN continues to create advances in Internet and networking technologies through its work on ad hoc networking, the semantic web, quantum communications, and advanced protocols. Building on its substantial list of firsts, BBN operates the first metro quantum cryptography network, the first real-time foreign broadcast monitoring system, and has developed the world's first stereoscopic digital mammography system. For more information on BBN Technologies, visit www.bbn.com.