Quantum cryptography could make grid more secure

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Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has successfully completed the first-ever demonstration of securing control data for electric grids using quantum cryptography, which provides a means of detecting and destroying a force trying to intercept or attack grid communications.

The miniature quantum encryption transmitter at LANL generates random cryptographic keys to encode and decode information to protect electric infrastructure control systems. (PRNewsFoto/Los Alamos National Laboratory)

The demonstration was performed in the Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid (TCIPG) project at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) established under the Department of Energy's Cyber Security for Energy Delivery Systems program in the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

Quantum cryptography utilizes single photons to produce secure random numbers between users. These random numbers are then used to authenticate and encrypt the grid control data and commands. Because the random numbers are produced securely, they act as cryptographic key material for data authentication and encryption algorithms.

Methods such as these are necessary as the grid accommodates new energy sources that require transmission of data to and from control centers, as this data must be trustworthy and immediate. The simultaneous requirements of strong authentication and low latency are difficult to meet with standard cryptographic techniques. Quantum encryption strengthens existing cybersecurity grid protections.

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