New hacker-proof fibre optic cable arrives on the world

Fibre optic cable is invisible to most of the population. Whether it’s hidden underground or buried deep in the ocean, operating it correctly is vital to offering broadband connection and data transfer services in line with the highly demanding nature of the modern world. Without the work of fibre optic operators, it would be impossible to have an Internet connection today – although there are alternatives out there, such as Internet via satellite, for geographical areas with little fibre optic coverage.


Fortunately, the performance offered by fibre optic in terms of transfer rates, latency and transmission speeds is getting better all the time. And it’s expected to improve even further in the medium term. Similarly, fibre is a secure way of transmitting information globally, which makes fibre optic cable the preferred connectivity option for companies, governments and private users alike. Although safe and impenetrable are very different concepts indeed.



Hackers also have fibre optic in their sights

It’s a fact of life that thieves never stop looking for new ways to access the most precious raw material of the day, in our case, data. And fibre optic isn’t exempt from being the victim of potential attacks by hackers looking for our passwords to everyday websites, the access codes to our bank accounts, as well as ways to get into our emails, for instance. After all, much of the world’s available fibre optic cable runs under public and accessible land – albeit out of sight and out of reach to most of the general public.


Hackers often seek out vulnerabilities in systems, whatever that system might be, to achieve their goals. Fibre optic has made this task rather difficult for them, and not just because of the location of the infrastructure. The technical characteristics of data transmission through fibre optic cable make external influences by third parties much more difficult, as well as much more expensive. In fact, that’s why fibre has proven to be one of the safest connectivity options developed to date. Nevertheless, technological solutions must continue to be developed to find new ways of preventing hacker attacks as much as possible.



A hollow fibre optic cable to fight cyber attacks

In order to minimise the risks of these kinds of practices, British operator BT has carried out the first trials of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology over a six-kilometre stretch of hollow fibre optic cable. In traditional fibre optic cables, signals are transmitted through fibreglass filaments, with different wavelengths bouncing off the sides of cables. Whereas in a quantum cable, light is transmitted in a single photon beam, without any physical materials inside. It’s just empty. Nested anti-resonant nodeless fibre (NANF) cables don’t require parallel fibre optic cables to reduce interference, so data and encryption keys can be sent simultaneously via a single medium, facilitating the decoding at the point of reception.


Hollow fibre optic not only reduces vulnerabilities to external interference from the likes of hackers, but also reduces latency and means it’s now possible to increase the distance over which signals are sent and received, from the current hundred or two hundred kilometres to more than six hundred kilometres – as recent tests carried out by the likes of Toshiba have demonstrated.


It’s fairly likely that QKD fibre optic will underpin the fibre optic cable infrastructure of the future and, furthermore, that the moment of communion and compatibility with quantum computing, which is currently in development, will soon come, which could significantly change not just our concept of connectivity, but also our way of understanding technology and how we interact with it.