Inside Quantum Technology

IQT Interviews John Prisco, CEO and President of Quantum Xchange

InsideQuantumTechnology continues its bi-weekly indepth interview series here as a companion to the IQT daily newsletter.
Today, we are honored to be interviewing John Prisco, the CEO and president of Quantum Xchange. John was already well-known and respected in the cybersecurity arena when he joined Quantum Exchange. Throughout his 30-year career, John Prisco has demonstrated success driving revenue growth, implementing operational excellence, and bringing companies such as Triumfant, GeoVantage and Ridgeway Systems to successful exits. His depth of experience in telecommunications, cybersecurity and quantum physics are ideally suited to lead Quantum Xchange and its customers, partners, investors, and employees through the emerging era of quantum computing and the future of encryption.

IQT: Tell our readers about Quantum Xchange and your company’s mission.
Prisco: The cryptographic technologies that protect the world’s data and communications are increasingly vulnerable, especially with the arrival of quantum computers in the not-so-distant future. Our goal is to provide organizations with the next-generation technologies needed to be crypto-agile and quantum safe today – not 10 years from now.
We do this by meeting organizations based on their risk tolerance. Our QKD offering enables the most stringent, provably secure, and unbreakable means of securing data in transit – essentially fighting quantum computers with equally powerful quantum encryption. We’ve overcome the distance and point-to-point only limitations of all other QKD offerings to make it commercially viable and practical. Those who are not yet ready for QKD-level security throughout their entire enterprise, may still get better security from their existing encryption environment by deploying our Phio TX technology – which is uniquely capable of making traditional key exchange quantum-safe using an out-of-band symmetric key delivery technique we’ve invented.

IQT:You are communicating the danger of “Harvesting” to the wider world, especially in relationship to quantum computing and QDK. Will you please explain “Harvesting?”
Prisco: “Harvesting” attacks are efforts by nefarious actors like China, Russia, North Korea and Iran to find their way into sensitive networks and steal highly encrypted data today, to decrypt with quantum computers later. One major example of this kind of attack was the 2015 hack of the Office of Personnel Management, which compromised 21.5 million sensitive records.
Once these foreign powers have the computing power necessary to break classical encryption, these and millions of other records stolen over the last several years will be exposed and exploited. This is an existential threat to the United States’ role as world hegemon. We believe falling behind in the deployment of QKD and letting these harvesting attacks continue is a major national security concern.

IQT: What is the Phio network? And the involvement of ID Quantique?
Prisco: The Phio network is the first quantum-ready fiber network in the U.S. It is comprised of 1,000 kilometers of optical fiber and 19 colocation centers that run from Washington, D.C. to New York and Boston. It leverages “Alice and Bob” QKD hardware from leading vendors such as ID Quantique (for which we have an exclusive U.S. licensing agreement).
The Phio collection of products and solutions (Phio QK, Phio TX and the Phio Fiber Network) solves the fundamental problems with classical encryption and quantum cryptography (QKD):

IQT: What is the difference between the Phio QK and Phio TX?
Prisco: Phio QK are quantum keys – the Alice and Bob boxes provided by leading vendors such as ID Quantique and Toshiba. Phio TX (Trusted Xchange) is our patent-pending out-of-band key delivery technology that enables encrypted, fault-tolerant, and load-balanced point-to-multi-point key transmissions across any distance. The encryption and key generation work together with QKD if desired, making it crypto-agile and future proof. With Phio TX, organizations can evaluate their risk tolerance and choose the level of protection needed: advanced end-to-end protection (traditional crypto with Phio TX out-of-band symmetric key delivery); quantum cryptography via QKD; or a combination of both – all resistant to quantum attack.

IQT: The July 2019 press release indicated you intend to extend the Phio network nationwide in the next 12 months. Is that expansion underway?
Prisco: Yes, we are building the Phio Fiber Network in key markets as customer demand dictates. However, with the innovation of Phio TX, organizations can achieve QKD support across unlimited distance without the need for dedicated fiber. It works across your existing transport network be it WAN, wireless or fiber.

IQT: Can you explain the “Trusted Node” technology?
Prisco: Trusted Node was the innovation we purchased form Battelle Labs when the company was founded. It enabled point-to-point QKD support over unlimited distances using 100-kilometer multipliers. When a key reached its maximum transmission distance, a second quantum key could be injected into the first key, enabling transmission for an additional 100 kilometers.
Phio Trusted Xchange, just announced in September, is an innovation on the original Trusted Node technology. Working within an organization’s existing encryption environment, the Phio TX out-of-band symmetric key delivery enables encrypted, fault-tolerant, and load-balanced point-to-multipoint key transmissions across any distance without the need for dedicated fiber. Phio TX can be configured to have hops along the QKD Alice and Bob installs, operate completely independently, or do both. Because Phio TX separates the data from the key delivery channel, brute force quantum computer attacks are practically impossible. Combining keys delivered inline by traditional methods, and out-of-band by using Phio TX (double encryption), allows for unobtrusive deployment on existing networks while significantly increasing the encrypted channel’s resistance to attacks, making it quantum safe.
IQT: The news we have covered is that you are the provider of the first quantum key distribution network in the US. Where is that network in operation and how successful?
Prisco: The first leg of the operational QKD network from Quantum Xchange runs from Washington, D.C. to New York City, including key connections to the financial markets on Wall Street with back office operations in New Jersey. The ultra-secure, quantum network is used to securely transmit high-value data, including trading algorithms and customer settlement accounts, for several large banks and asset management firms. Other popular use-cases include:

IQT: Do you see the one-and-only status of Quantum Xchange providing the only provider of a QKD network continuing in the US? Do you expect competitors? What about Europe?
Prisco: Quantum Xchange saw the opportunity to bring QKD out of the lab and into a commercial, enterprise setting. To do so, it had to solve QKD’s distance limitations, reliability problems, and point-to-point only transmission capabilities.  With the introduction of Phio Trusted Xchange (Phio TX), Quantum Xchange supports both WAN networking through point-to-multipoint communications and long-haul networking by extending QKD across unlimited distances. By overcoming these two barriers that have hindered QKD’s commercial use, Quantum Xchange is a true industry trailblazer and several years ahead of any other offering.
That said, Europe has embraced QKD and deployed the technology (even with its challenges and limitations) in real-world settings for the past decade. The U.S. driven by NIST, is focused entirely on post-quantum cryptography algorithms. We believe a quantum defense-in-depth strategy is needed for U.S enterprises – an infrastructure that embraces both quantum-resistant algorithms (when available) and QKD.IQT: Can you share industries you are targeting, clients currently engaged and the kinds of projects currently underway.

Prisco: While we can’t name current customers, our solutions are well-suited for industries that handle highly sensitive, long-shelf life data, such as finance, energy and government (see response to question #7).

IQT: Forbes called you a “Thought Leader who Changed the Business Landscape.” How do you see the overall business landscape changing as Phio and QKD are adopted? Will medium and small businesses be able (and afford to be able) to tap into QKD benefits?
Prisco: Organizations are looking for agile and dynamic solutions to keep pace with the rapidly approaching quantum era, while also seeking the highest levels of protection available today for their most critical assets, communication channels, and long shelf-life data.
Most organizations don’t want to introduce significant changes to their existing security infrastructure, or risk full reliance on immature or nascent technology via a rip-and-replace scenario as computing power improves year-over-year.  Instead, companies want to build onto a dynamic, crypto-agile network that can easily scale to meet their needs now and prepares them for quantum cryptography later.  Phio TX enables organizations to start simple, then grow as the need arises by layering in QKD, thereby making QKD practical and affordable.

IQT: How many employees at Quantum Xchange? Are you having problems finding professionals with the skills you need? (We read about the need to educate future quantum professionals).
Prisco: We currently employ 14 full-time, senior level executives across sales, product development and marketing. Our team has vast experience making nascent technologies enterprise ready and commercially viable. We plan to hire 25-30 by the end of 2020.

IQT: You have a 30-year most successful career. What about quantum technology convinced you to join an innovative technology sector (quantum) that is building its own technologies, customer base, and commercial ecosystem?
Prisco: I spent most of my career in the telecom industry, but I believe all roads were ultimately leading me to Quantum Xchange. My background in telecommunications, cybersecurity and quantum physics gives me an ideal perspective that will help bring our customers, partners, investors and employees through the emerging era of quantum computing and the future of encryption.

Interview by Sandra Kay Helsel, PhD., Editor of IQT News.
Email IQT if you are interested in being interviewed or want to suggest an interviewee.

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