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Could quantum cryptography help secure 5G networks?

Researchers have devised a way to embed quantum cryptography into 5G networks, protecting the next-generation telecoms infrastructure from cyber attacks.

A team of scientists at the University of Bristol claims its solution secures 5G services without compromising download speeds.

Over the last decade, advances in software engineering have led to network services being moved from dedicated hardware to commodity computing services. Attempts to interfere with these systems could compromise the security of the network.

But the researchers’ solution protects against such attacks by incorporating quantum crytography into a network virtualisation platform capable of protecting several mobile carriers at any one time.

Professor Reza Nejabati, head of Bristol’s high petformance networks research group, said: “Hardware and software technologies reported in this paper can potentially revolutionise 5G networks.

“They empower network operators to leverage the flexibility and programmability offered by virtualization technology in order to create new types of internet services while taking advantages of transmission at the speed of light and also securing the system using quantum technology”.

A number of concerns have been raised about the security risks posed by 5G. While the 5G security rules set up by the 3GPP standards body are believed to be more secure than those for 4G, it’s expected that 5G will be used to connect more than just mobile phones, expanding the so-called threat surface. In time, self-driving cars and personal medical technology could both depend on 5G to operate.

Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, director of the Smart Internet Lab, said: “5G networks will transform communications, industry and society in the next decade. However, security is a key concern for 5G deployment and is expressed widely in global media.

“The University of Bristol has pioneered research on 5G and quantum for a number of years and more recently led a number of landmark demonstrations of 5G benefits. With this new work, we bring together our research strengths to provide an ultimate security solution for 5G networks.”

The findings of Bristol’s research were presented at the Optical Fibre Communication Conference in San Diego last week.