(Wired) Quantum-encrypted power stations may provide utilities with the security they to protect the nation’s power grids. The threat is real–the Department of Homeland Security announced last March that a hacker group affiliated with the Russian government last March. In some cases, the hackers could even directly send commands to mess with hardware, which meant they could have cut off the power entirely to customers’ homes.
To address this threat, a group from Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducted a test with Tennessee utility company EPB to show how two different quantum encryption systems could be integrated into existing grid infrastructure. “We’re hoping to show that the concept can be deployed today,” says physicist Nick Peters of Oak Ridge lab.
The scientists successfully sent and received a series of numbers known as a key using a protocol known as quantum key distribution, or QKD, which guarantees that nobody has tampered with the numbers.
Peters’ group thinks that a utility company could use quantum-encrypted data to communicate with their hardware. For someone to intercept or change a quantum-encrypted data stream, they’d have to defy quantum mechanics.