Arqit and Babcock to collaborate on encryption demonstration
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Arqit and Babcock to collaborate on encryption demonstration

By Norbert Neumann 01 Sep 2021

Quantum encryption specialist Arqit has entered into a collaboration agreement with Babcock International to demonstrate its QuantumCloud product capabilities in live operational scenarios.

Arqit and Babcock to collaborate on encryption demonstration
Arqit says QuantumCloud’s encryption is fully safe, even from future quantum computer threats. Credit: Arqit

Under the agreement, the two companies will jointly demonstrate Arqit’s encryption capabilities under a wide range of scenarios for government and defence industry customers.

QuantumCloud creates software encryption keys, combining patented quantum and classic technologies. Arqit chief executive officer David Williams tells Army Technology: “What the product does, it puts 200 lines of code onto your device or endpoint device.”

He says when parties want to set up secure communication between two devices – whether that be phones, cars or fighter jets – they undergo a key-creation process, whereby the devices communicate with data centres that provide clues. Then, by using the clues, the devices simultaneously create a brand new symmetric key.

“Saying that [the two parties] simultaneously create a random number at the same time that sounds tautological because what happens is, they both create a random number simultaneously, and then you use that to just stick into their communication over regular IP channels,” William elaborates.

He says there are two parts to the QuantumCloud. “Firstly, the clues that you get from the data centre are put into the data centres by quantum satellites. And then the software that goes on the device also represents a brand new crypto mathematical protocol and the way the device creates a key is a style of cryptography.”

Arqit says the solution is fully safe, even from future quantum computer threats, because the root source of keys themselves are inserted into the system by satellites in the first place.

“There is no certificate provider in the [encryption] chain, there is nothing else to attack. The keys are not only unbreakable, but they are also what’s known as trustless,” Williams adds.

There is no other computer or system anywhere in the world that ever had the exact key or one that even knows enough about the constituent parts that went into making the key to reverse engineer it.

Williams says if there is a communication link set up between three parties, then there would be seven devices involved in that key creation process. “The mal-actor would have to compromise six of them in order to learn the key, and every single one of those devices is already communicating in a symmetric key-encrypted channel which you can’t break”, he adds.

He says there is a temporal dimension to QuantumCloud, which means the compromise would also have to happen simultaneously in all six devices at the same time.

Williams claims the success of his company’s product lies in the interdisciplinary approach Arqit took to create QuantumCloud.

“You have to get a team of people together with relevant disciplines if your company is going to be able to understand physics and crypto mathematics”, he continues. “We’ve blended those disciplines and we’ve created a quantum protocol that solves that global versus trustless problem.

“The root source of keys, the ingredient in the key creation process is currently being done on the ground in a data centre. In two year-time, the entire network gets upgraded by the launch of two quantum satellites which will make the entire system end-to-end provably secure against all forms of quantum attack,” Williams adds.

Arqit’s encryption software is deployed live with 20 customers already. The focus of the project with Babcock involves uncrewed ground vehicle programmes, secure crewed and uncrewed aerial vehicle programmes and secure maritime connectivity programmes.

Babcock mission system managing director Richard Drake said in a statement: “We’re continuing to develop our technology strategy with a particular interest in digital technologies, secure communications and other areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Digital Twins and autonomy. As threats to data evolve, we need to respond and grow our capabilities in line with new requirements.”

Short of elaborating on specific details, Williams says Arqit has significant sources of funding coming into the project soon that will enable the company to move quickly and to integrate its technology into some of the platforms that Babcock is focusing on. He says the company have relevance in all domains, including space.

The agreement between the companies will also deepen Babcock’s involvement in areas of broader quantum technology development.