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HSBC London successfully tests a hackproof quantum network to secure trades

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Quantum networks are allegedly the ultimate in network security, and London is ahead of the curve in adopting them.

 

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A year or so after starting construction on the world’s first city wide quantum internet network HSBC in London will become the first British bank to test an advanced new data security system that’s been developed by UK telecom giant British Telecom, Amazon, and Toshiba.

 

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So called Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is a type of cyber defense that financial institutions think could help protect trillions of dollars of transactions from increasingly sophisticated hackers in the future.

While it won’t be a standalone cybersecurity method, it may be an important part of the defense strategy for companies like HSBC as the technology develops. Soon quantum computers could slice through even the most complex mathematical encryption systems so a separate and critical part of preparing for what’s known as “Q-Day” when this happens is finding new encryption methods.

“As technology develops and current methods begin to be defeated, we have to make sure we have the most up-to-date robust encryption and security standards,” HSBC Chief Executive Officer for Europe Colin Bell said in an interview. “Ultimately it becomes a ‘when’ question rather than an ‘if’ question — and hence why we are very pleased to take part in a trial like this.”

 

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Participating in the trial involves the bank installing equipment to send test data 62 kilometers (38.5 miles) between its headquarters in London’s Canary Wharf financial district and a data center in the neighbouring county Berkshire. HSBC said the trial will help it better analyze threats and work out how to protect data.

QKD is a way two remote parties can agree a shared secret key to encrypt and decrypt data that’s thought, so far, to be unhackable. Forms of it have been in development for years and are in large part reliant on the properties of quantum physics.

 

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HSBC isn’t the first bank to consider quantum key distribution as a potential long-term security method though; JPMorgan Chase said last year it had “demonstrated the ability of the newly developed QKD network to instantly detect and defend against eavesdroppers,” as part of a system also involving Toshiba.

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