Unbreakable encryption is vital for organizations intent on securing their data and communications – and for those looking to maximize such efforts, quantum-based cryptography is the future. That’s especially true when you consider that one day, quantum computers could also be used by cybercriminals to crack older encryption methods, thus rendering them obsolete. 

To that end, NIST earlier this year selected four “post-quantum” tools that can create encryption algorithms that can defeat any cracking attempts by a quantum computer. On the other side of the cryptographic equation, companies like Quantinuum have been developing quantum-based methodologies for generating truly random, unpredictable cryptographic keys. 

Duncan Jones, head of cybersecurity at Quantinuum recently spoke with SC Media about how the science of quantum encryption is coming along, referencing several current use cases for quantum key generation, as well as an intriguing pilot secure communications test involving the International Space Station. 

According to Jones, quantum-based key generation (which Quantinuum offers via its own service called Quantum Origin) is “resonating very well with financial services companies, with governments, with anybody… for whom security is a core feature of what they offer to their end users.” 

Furthermore, “a short way down the line, in maybe two years or so, the new [post-quantum algorithms] will become standardized by NIST,” Jones continued, in a video interview filmed at CyberRisk Alliance’s 2022 InfoSec World conference in Orlando, Florida. “Organizations need to start planning for that migration because it's going to involve a huge amount of work. And the first step is just to understand where you stand today. What systems do you have, what data do you have that is sensitive, so that you can prioritize your adoption of these technologies?” 

Quantinuum got to test out the combination of quantum-based keys and algorithms together in a test pilot initiative conducted aboard the ISS, in coordination with Axiom Space – a private enterprise that plans to construct the world’s first commercial space station. “They're starting to think… about… the future of space communications, because they need to think in a very future-proofed way,” said Jones of Axiom Space. “Whatever they put out there into the field is literally going into space for 20, 30 years... So we worked with them to explore quantum-safe communications from space to Earth.” 

Indeed, using Quantum Origin, Axiom during the test was able to send the quantum-encrypted message “Hello Quantum World” from the ISS to Earth. 

For further details on quantum encryption and the work of Quantinuum, watch the embedded video below.