Canberra-based company QuintessenceLabs was awarded a $3.26 million investment from the Australian Department of Defence, the largest of the eight recent Defence Innovation Hub investments, to continue the expansion of its quantum key distribution (QKD) capabilities and extend it to free space communications.
QuintessenceLabs, which has already developed a QKD solution using commercially available off-the-shelf products, said it will use this investment to mature a sovereign Australian QKD solution.
The solution will seek to protect defence and other critical Australian government systems from malicious cyber intrusion and disruption, and enhance the resilience of defence networks, locally and abroad.
The solution will also aim to resolve eavesdropping issues impacting secure communications, protecting those communications both from current attacks and future quantum computing threats. It will extend this capability from fibre-optic networks to the next frontier: free space, quantum key distribution.
This is the second time the Australian Department of Defence has supported QuintessenceLabs' work, having invested $1.1 million in the company in 2012.
Founder and chief executive of QuintessenceLabs Vikram Sharma said the investment signifies the importance quantum technology can have in improving security and defence communications.
"The awarding of this contract acknowledges the importance of quantum technology to enhance cyber security and protect communications," Sharma said.
"QuintessenceLabs is pleased to be partnering with the Australian government to mature and expand these capabilities and ensure that our data remains safe even as the challenge of quantum computers develops."
The company said this investment will help the firm's research into QKD, which uses quantum properties to exchange secret information – such as cryptographic keys – in a way that is invulnerable to cyber threats faced today and those we can anticipate in the future.
QuintessanceLabs explained the security of QKD is based on a fundamental characteristic of quantum mechanics: the act of measuring a quantum system disturbs the system. Thus, an eavesdropper trying to intercept a quantum exchange will inevitably leave detectable traces, allowing the legitimate exchanging parties to discard the corrupted information. Since it is protected by the laws of physics, this approach will remain invulnerable to increasing computational power, new attack algorithms or quantum computers.
QuintessanceLabs has offices in Canberra and San Jose, California.