Port of Rotterdam. © Pixabay
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A new quantum technology-based communication system could improve the security of the tens of thousands of ocean-going vessels that visit the Port of Rotterdam every year. It will also make the resulting economic traffic more secure against the threat of quantum computers, Innovation Quarter reports in a press release.

As part of the Quantum Delta NL program, a consortium of Port of Rotterdam Authority, Q*Bird, Single Quantum, Cisco, Eurofiber, Portbase, Intermax and InnovationQuarter has become the first in the world to build a scalable quantum network connection in the port of Rotterdam.

Distribution quantum keys

During the trial period, which started at the end of 2022, Q*Bird installed a central hub for a quantum network in Eurofiber’s data center. This hub is connected to two endpoints at Portbase and Havenbedrijf Rotterdam. The endpoints exchanged data secured with quantum keys during the trial period. Key generation and distribution take place within the quantum network, with Q*Bird using a “multipoint-to-multipoint configuration” for the endpoints. In turn, new endpoints can be attached to the central hub, each of which can generate quantum keys. The system can also secure other critical infrastructure networks in the Netherlands. Now that this trial has been successful, new endpoints at Customs and several nautical service providers in the port will be connected to the central hub in this year.

Ready for the future

The setup built during the trial allows multiple end users to have a secure, non-tapped connection. The strength of this setup is the ease with which it can be expanded to many more users and the relatively low cost of expansion. Once connected, involved parties can be assured that the communication line has not been tampered with. If a hacker attempts to steal the keys, the laws of quantum mechanics ensure that users are notified as soon as the keys have fallen into the wrong hands. Another set of keys is then created to exchange further messages securely.

Rapid development of quantum communications

Cybersecurity is currently assured by the encryption of data, which is based on arithmetic that is barely solvable with today’s computers. A powerful quantum computer, however, can crack algorithms and expose sensitive data. Because of the computer’s unprecedented computing power, encrypted information can be decrypted in no time at the risk of making state and trade secrets accessible to parties with malicious intent. Also, data that is now intercepted and stored can later be cracked with a quantum computer.

Quantum technology is developing at lightning speed, so the quantum computer is arriving faster than expected. Quantum technology has unprecedented possibilities to solve complex problems, but it also poses serious threats. For companies with critical infrastructure, such as the Port Authority, this could pose a serious threat of business disruption resulting in major financial and physical damage. Increasing cyber resilience is, therefore, more important than ever.