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QRate uses QKD quantum tech to prevent autonomous vehicles being hacked


When someone hacks your connected toaster it’s a nuisance, but when someone takes control of millions of connected cars and crashes them into one another it’s a bigger problem – now there’s a solution to prevent that.


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While many people are excited about the arrival of autonomous cars there’s one giant flaw looking for a solution – how to prevent them all being hacked en masse and turned into speeding weapons. While automotive manufacturers use a mix of cyber security best practise and containerised code to try and solve the issue it hasn’t been enough to stop vehicles being hacked and hijacked by researchers and crims alike.


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One of the most promising security technologies though, that I’ve talked about before, is securing vehicles using quantum tech, and now QRate and Innopolis University from Russia have announced they’ve successfully protected an autonomous vehicle using a futuristic quantum communications device. The success of the experiment is also seen by many as proof that Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) devices, which at the moment are generally thought to be unhackable, could be used to secure autonomous vehicles as well as the critical infrastructure of Smart Cities.

One of the best known hacks of autonomous and connected vehicles is the exploitation of the over the air software update system so in the experiment the teams successfully performed a “quantum protected software update for an autonomous car.”


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To do this they first established a stable 4G wireless communication channel between a vehicle and data center and then crypto protected it with OpenVPN using quantum symmetrical keys that were then distributed via a QRate QKD device. In future, they say, they will be able to integrate all this with 5G.

At the moment Quantum Key Distribution between vehicles and data centers is done via optical fiber when the vehicles are fuelling or charging, and so far the teams have managed to reach speeds of 40 kbit/sec for key distribution which means it would take about an hour for a vehicle to be protected.

When a vehicle is moving, however, a quantum protected mobile 4G link can be established and every 15 seconds the OpenVPN system receives a new pre-distributed quantum key from QRate’s QKD device.


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“To scale this kind of solution there is a need to build urban quantum networks and to follow the technological developments in the direction of QKD modules miniaturization, a deeper integration in the autonomous driving system of driverless vehicles, and also some work on the standardization of information security of the transport industry, taking into account quantum communication,” said QRate CTO Yury Kurochkin.

“For the interaction of an unmanned vehicle and the infrastructure, a 4G LTE wireless network is used. This solution allows for tunnelling the 4G LTE channel and its encryption. Quantum technology of crypto key generation makes it possible to create a crypto-secured data link and prevent unauthorized viewing or spoofing of transferred data,” said Sergey Grebennikov, a technical specialist of the laboratory of autonomous transport systems of Innopolis University.


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Autonomous vehicles are one of the most anticipated technological shifts in the transportation industry and by 2030 it’s estimated that the market will be worth at least $2 Trillion so, as you can probably imagine, there are a lot of people watching this space and keeping their fingers crossed that it all works as planned.

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