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Scalable Authentication and Optimal Flooding in a Quantum Network

Solomons NR, Fletcher AI, Aktas D, Venkatachalam N, Wengerowsky S, Lončarić M, Neumann SP, Liu B, Samec Z, Stipčević M, Ursin R, Pirandola S, Rarity JG, Joshi SK. “Scalable Authentication and Optimal Flooding in a Quantum Network”, in PRX Quantum 3, 020311 (2022). doi: 10.1103/PRXQuantum.3.020311

The global interest in quantum networks stems from the security guaranteed by the laws of physics. The deployment of quantum networks means facing the challenges of scaling up the physical hardware and, more importantly, of scaling up all other network layers and optimally utilizing network resources. Here, we consider two related protocols and their experimental demonstrations on an eight-user quantum network test bed, and discuss their usefulness with the aid of example use cases. First, we consider an authentication-transfer protocol to manage a fundamental limitation of quantum communication—the need for a preshared key between every pair of users linked together on the quantum network. By temporarily trusting some intermediary nodes for a short period of time (<35min in our network), we can generate and distribute these initial authentication keys with a very high level of security. Second, when end users quantify their trust in intermediary nodes, our flooding protocol can be used to improve both end-to-end communication speeds and increase security against malicious nodes.