Geneva votes for quantum cryptography

Geneva votes for quantum cryptography

Swiss national elections count on cutting edge security

The Swiss national elections on 21 October will mark a world first for Geneva as the canton employs quantum cryptography to protect the dedicated line used for counting ballots.

Hailed as the first real-world application of quantum cryptography, the State of Geneva will use the technology to secure the network linking its ballot data entry centre to the government repository where the votes are stored.

The goal is to guarantee the integrity of the data as it is processed. It is hoped that the experiment will lead to the creation of a pilot quantum communications network in Geneva similar to the nascent internet network in the US in the 1970s.

"We would like to provide optimal security conditions for the work of counting the ballots," said Geneva state chancellor Robert Hensler.

"In this context, the value added by quantum cryptography concerns not so much protection from outside attempts to interfere as the ability to verify that the data has not been corrupted in transit between entry and storage."

Hensler also stressed that the use of cutting-edge technology such as quantum cryptography is directly related to the information's importance to the State.

"Information is the raw material of the State, which it uses to create added value," he said.

"Whether in the context of a political decision, a police investigation or hospital care, the State is a regulator of information exchange and a provider of information-based services."

The method of quantum cryptography was developed at the University of Geneva by Professor Nicolas Gisin and his team in the mid 1990s.

In 2001, it gave rise to a spin-off company called id Quantique, which is working alongside the Geneva Information Technologies Center to ensure the security of the upcoming election.

"Protection of the federal elections is of historical importance in the sense that, after several years of development and experimentation, this will be the first use of a 1GHz quantum encrypter, which is transparent for the user, and an ordinary fibre-optic line to send data endowed with relevance and purpose," said Professor Gisin.