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SK Telecom brings quantum security to the masses

The South Korean telco is readying the world’s first 5G smartphone equipped with a quantum random number generator chipset

SK Telecom is bringing the security benefits of quantum computing to the masses with the Galaxy A Quantum, the world’s first 5G smartphone equipped with a quantum random number generator chipset.

Developed together with Samsung and ID Quantique, a supplier of quantum key distribution systems, the smartphone, slated for launch in Korea next week, features quantum enhanced cryptography that generates true random numbers that cannot be hacked.

These numbers can be used to enable two-factor authentication for T-ID, SK Telecom’s single sign-on service, biometric authentication for the SK Pay mobile payment service, along with a blockchain-based wallet to store and secure electronic documents such as certificates and insurance claims.

The South Korean telco also plans to open application programming interfaces (APIs) to developers to support the development of quantum security technology.

SK Telecom has been investing in quantum security since 2011, actively developing capabilities in quantum key distribution and quantum random number generators.

In 2019, SK Telecom and ID Quantique were awarded quantum communication network projects in the US and Europe, and applied quantum random number generators to SK Telecom’s 5G authentication centre for the first time.

Moving forward, SK Telecom said it will expand its footprint in the quantum security business by integrating quantum random number generators into more devices and networks.

“Securing mobiles phones has become a top priority for mobile operators, who are also looking to generate new revenues,” said Grégoire Ribordy, co-founder and CEO of ID Quantique.

“With its compact size and low power consumption, our latest quantum random number generator chip can be embedded in any smartphone, to ensure trusted authentication and encryption of sensitive information,” he added.

Ryu Young-sang, vice-president and head of mobile network operator business of SK Telecom, said the release of the Galaxy A Quantum marks a new chapter in the history of quantum security.

“We will offer differentiated security solutions to enable our customers to use ICT services in a safe and secure manner in the hyper-connected era of 5G,” he added.

Telcos across the Asia-Pacific region have been keen to advance the development of quantum computing technologies.

In April 2019, researchers from Singtel and the National University of Singapore demonstrated a new technique to advance quantum key distribution that can be used to secure communications between parties.

The researchers said they had succeeded in coordinating the travel of a pair of photons – one for each party – through different fibre network paths, controlling the photons’ arrival times precisely.

Read more about quantum computing in APAC

Without this technique, the photons may get out of sequence, making it difficult for both parties to agree on an encryption key. The breakthrough was demonstrated over Singtel’s fibre network, paving the way for wider adoption of quantum key distribution and future commercialisation.

Quantum key distribution is resistant to all types of computational hacks, including next-generation quantum computing threats. Any attempt to eavesdrop will increase the error rate of the photon sequence. This alerts the two communicating parties to an intrusion, so they can abort the session and start a new one.

Following their success, the researchers would work on actual use cases where quantum-resistant secure communication is needed to provide long-term security in government, banking and military applications.

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