First all-optical data encryption introduced

Created February 7, 2020
Technologies and Products

BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev, Israel, has introduced what it says is the first all-optical “stealth” encryption technology. This is reckoned to be significantly more secure and private for highly-sensitive cloud computing and datacentre network transmission.

“Today, information is still encrypted using digital techniques, although most data are transmitted over distance using light spectrum on fibre optic networks,” said Prof. Dan Sadot, chairman of the Cathedra for Electro-optics at BGU (pictured) who heads the team that developed the new technology. “Time is running out on security and privacy of digital encryption technology, which can be read offline if recorded and code-broken using intensive computing power. We’ve developed an end-to-end solution providing encryption, transmission, decryption, and detection optically instead of digitally.”

Using standard optical equipment, the BGU research team essentially renders the fibre optic light transmission invisible or stealthy. Instead of using one colour of the light spectrum to send one large data stream, this method spreads the transmission across many colours in the optical spectrum bandwidth (1,000 x wider than digital) and intentionally creates multiple weaker data streams that are hidden under noise and elude detection. Every transmission, electronic, digital, or fibre has a certain amount of “noise”, and the researchers demonstrated that they can transmit weaker encrypted data under a stronger inherent noise level which cannot be detected.

The solution also employs a commercially available phase mask, which changes the phase of each wavelength (colour). That process also appears as noise but destroys the “coherence” or ability to recompile the data without the correct encryption key. The optical phase mask cannot be recorded offline, so the data is destroyed if a hacker tries to decode it.

“Basically, the innovative breakthrough is that if you can’t detect it, you can’t steal it,” Prof. Sadot said. “Because an eavesdropper can neither read the data or even detect the existence of the transmitted signal, our optical stealth transmission provides the highest level of privacy and security for sensitive data applications.”

“The novel, patented method invented by Prof. Sadot and his team, is highly useful for multiple applications, such as high-speed communication, sensitive transmission of financial, medical or social media-related information, without the risk of eavesdropping or jamming data flow,” added Zafrir Levy, Senior Vice President, Exact Sciences & Engineering, BGN Technologies. “In fact, with this novel method, an eavesdropper will require years to break the encryption key. BGN is now seeking an industry partner to implement and commercialise this game-changing technology.”

The all-optical technology is an extension of the digital optical encryption method originally invented by Prof. Sadot and his team in collaboration with Prof. Zalevsky of Bar Ilan University.

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This article was written
by John Williamson

John Williamson is a freelance telecommunications, IT and military communications journalist. He has also written for national and international media, and been a telecoms advisor to the World Bank.