Quantum Cryptography Put to Work for Electric Grid Security

         Quantum Cryptography Put to Work for Electric Grid Security

PR Newswire

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Feb. 14, 2013

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Feb. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Recently a Los
Alamos National Laboratory quantum cryptography (QC) team successfully
completed the first-ever demonstration of securing control data for electric
grids using quantum cryptography.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130214/DC60813)

The demonstration was performed in the electric grid test bed that is part of
the Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid (TCIPG) project at the
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) that was set up under the
Department of Energy's Cyber Security for Energy Delivery Systems program in
the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

Novel methods for controlling the electric grid are needed to accommodate new
energy sources such as renewables whose availability can fluctuate on short
time scales. This requires transmission of data to and from control centers;
but for grid-control use, data must be both trustworthy and delivered without
delays. The simultaneous requirements of strong authentication and low latency
are difficult to meet with standard cryptographic techniques. New technologies
that further strengthen existing cybersecurity protections are needed.

Quantum cryptography provides a means of detecting and defeating an adversary
who might try to intercept or attack the communications. Single photons are
used to produce secure random numbers between users, and 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.

At the heart of the quantum-secured communications system is a unique,
miniaturized QC transmitter invention, known as a QKarD, that is five orders
of magnitude smaller than any competing QC device. Jane Nordholt, the Los
Alamos principal investigator, put it this way: "This project shows that
quantum cryptography is compatible with electric-grid control communications,
providing strong security assurances rooted in the laws of physics, without
introducing excessive delays in data delivery."

A late-2012 demonstration at UIUC showed that quantum cryptography provides
the necessary strong security assurances with latencies (typically 250
microseconds, including 120 microseconds to traverse the 25kilometers of
optical fiber connecting the two nodes) that are at least two orders of
magnitude smaller than requirements. Further, the team's quantum-secured
communications system demonstrated that this capability could be deployed with
only a single optical fiber to carry the quantum, single-photon communications
signals; data packets; and commands. "Moreover, our system is scalable to
multiple monitors and several control centers," said Richard Hughes, the
co-principal investigator from Los Alamos.

The TCIPG cyber-physical test bed provides a realistic environment to explore
cutting-edge research and prove emerging smart grid technology in a fully
customizable environment. In this demonstration, high-fidelity power
simulation was leveraged using the real-time digital simulator to enable
hardware in the loop power simulation to drive real phasor measurement units
(PMUs), devices, deployed on today's electric grid that monitor its

"The simulator provides a mechanism for proving technology in real-world
scenarios," said Tim Yardley, assistant director of test bed services. "We're
not just using perfect or simulated data, so the results demonstrate true

The power simulation was running a well-known power-bus model that was
perturbed by introducing faults, which drove the analog inputs on the
connected hardware PMU. The PMU then communicated via the standard protocol to
the quantum cryptography equipment, which handled the key generation,
communication and encryption/decryption of the connection traversing
25kilometers of fiber. A phasor data concentrator then collected and
visualized the data.

"This demonstration represents not only a realistic power model, but also
leveraged hardware, software and standard communication protocols that are
already widely deployed in the energy sector," said William H. Sanders,
theDonald Biggar Willett Professor of Engineering at UIUC and principal
investigator for TCIPG."The success of the demonstration emphasizes the power
of the TCIPG cyber-physical test bed and the strength of the quantum
cryptography technology developed by Los Alamos."

The Los Alamos team submitted 23 U.S. and foreign patent applications for the
inventions that make quantum-secured communications possible. The Los Alamos
Technology Transfer Division has already received two licensing inquiries from
companies in the electric grid control sector, and the office plans an
industry workshop for early 2013 when the team's patents will be made
available for licensing.

The Los Alamos team is seeking funding to develop a next-generation QKarD
using integrated electro-photonics methods, which would be even smaller, more
highly integrated, and open the door to a manufacturing process that would
result in much lower unit costs.

About Los Alamos National Laboratory (www.lanl.gov)

Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution
engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by
Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the
University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company and URS Corporation for
the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability
of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from
weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy,
environment, infrastructure, health and global security concerns.

SOURCE Los Alamos National Laboratory

Website: http://www.lanl.gov
Contact: Nancy Ambrosiano, +1-505-667-0471, nwa@lanl.gov
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