QuintessenceLabs: Quantum Cryptography Meets Enterprise Security

Dr. Vikram Sharma, Founder & CEO A ‘eureka’ moment transpired when Dr. Vikram Sharma, a Sloan Fellow from Stanford University, who was exploring options for the next stage of his career in IT, decided to sit in on a doctoral course on quantum physics. The course was taught by Nobel laureate, Dr. Steven Chu who later went on to serve as the United States Secretary of Energy. In the course, Dr. Chu explained that scientific and engineering capabilities had developed to an extent that we could now create quantum states that did not normally occur in nature. The application of these advances to herald a new generation of cybersecurity capabilities piqued the interest of the cross-industry innovator-in-the-making, as Sharma promptly returned to the Australian National University, to work with the Quantum Optics Group, ultimately seeking to commercialize the science. Thus began the next chapter in his entrepreneurial journey—a business realization of quantum cryptography.

The research culminated in the inception of QuintessenceLabs—a company that brings distinctive data protection capabilities and groundbreaking patented technology to encryption key generation and management. According to Sharma, the company’s expertise in quantum cryptography brings a unique flavor to “layered defense,” which has become the new yardstick for enterprise security. If one examines the multiple layers that stand diligently against cybersecurity threats, the data protection and encryption walls stand the tallest and most sophisticated. While enterprises do have access to a plethora of encryption tools, an almost vexing quandary is the inability to implement encryption across a diversified IT infrastructure; and the subsequent management of encryption keys follows nimbly in pursuit. “That is at the heart of the problem that QuintessenceLabs seeks to address,” explains Sharma, “We excel at enabling enterprise-wide encryption and key and policy management for our customers—capabilities critical to effective data security governance.”

QuintessenceLabs’ preeminence lies in the Trusted Security Foundation (TSF), a platform that offers enterprises a centralized approach to administering their cybersecurity functions. Sharma attributes the underlying principle behind the platform’s wide adoption success to its ability to bring together foundational cybersecurity capabilities and integrate them into a single hardened, integrated platform. The unified visibility allows customers to carry out enterprise-wide encryption, centralized key management and policy enforcement, holistically and cost effectively.

We excel at enabling enterprise-wide encryption and key and policy management for our customers—capabilities critical to effective data security governance

Decrypting Quantum Laws

At the very core of the encryption challenge thrives a need for true random numbers, but the existing algorithms that churn these numbers would always be susceptible to—if not deciphered by—adversaries looking to compromise data vaults, by analyzing betrayed patterns. Sharma’s inspired revelation did not stop at just getting him a doctorate in quantum physics from the Australian National University, but also served as the panacea to this quandary. “In order to get “truly random” numbers, you have to measure something physical; at QuintessenceLabs we leverage the quantum randomness of nature for that purpose,” he explains, “By the laws of quantum physics, these numbers are “truly random.” We measure this effect at very high speed and produce a gigabit of true random per-second—that’s roughly a billion numbers every second.”

This technology powers qStream™, the “true random” number generator module in TSF—a tool that is conformant with a new standard called SP800-90B, which was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with contributions from QuintessenceLabs. The numbers generated by qStream™ are fed into qCrypt™, the key and policy manager, which segments them into different kinds of encryption keys without dictating what ciphers need to be used; instead, it comprehends a wide berth of keys. With the combined abilities of both products, QuintessenceLabs delivers and manages encryption keys for their customers to incorporate within their cybersecurity infrastructures in a seamless manner—with standards including KMIP, and PKCS #11 supported—allowing a multitude of applications to access key management programmatically.

The Business of Things

On a broader level, Sharma explains how data protection and its governance are standing agenda items in boardroom discussions today, and how the outputs of these deliberations—data security policies—need to be implemented across all levels and laterals of the organizational infrastructure.
TSF enables the enforcement of such policies in a comprehensive way that not only provides a robust cybersecurity posture but also proves cost-effective for enterprises. To that end, the TSF platform also contains an HSM module that provides support for PKI transactions and serves the purpose of securing the keys stored within the TSF database. QuintessenceLabs creates a perceivable ROI benefit through their offerings. “The idea behind our technology insertion thinking is that our platforms should strongly complement existing infrastructure as opposed to requiring replacement of existing investments,” Sharma adds.

These unique insights result from Sharma’s interactions with customers, primarily from the banking, federal and defense sectors, and the use cases his team observed while working with them. In one instance, a large bank utilized an encryption gateway developed by QuintessenceLabs, to secure data transactions between their in-house, private, and public cloud storage environments. The result was a decreased dependency on the demarcation of where the data resides. The company is also helping several other banks in encrypting their sensitive documents, such as ‘eyes-only’ for senior-most executives. The company is also involved in several big data and legal document management projects entailing hundreds of millions of documents and records containing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) which they help encrypt and secure.

Cascading Possibilities

Having founded two successful IT-based ventures prior to QuintessenceLabs, Sharma believes that their stronghold in encryption technology arises from the focus on being lean as an organization. With multiple partners such as PKWARE, Westpac, NetDocuments and others, the company ensures it delivers a stellar performance in its core competency by offering a fully integrated end-to-end encryption and data protection solution. The company now eyes the European and Singapore markets, plying in the momentum they have acquired working with banking, financial, defense, and federal government sectors in the US, UK, and Australia. According to Sharma, the philosophy at QuintessenceLabs—synthesizing frontier-of-science technologies in quantum physics with advanced cybersecurity capabilities—displays huge potential given the growing emphasis on automation. An increasing number of organizations—now even in healthcare and critical infrastructure—are headed toward automation of their cybersecurity functions. As Sharma concludes, he adds, “To that end, we believe our technology goes a long way in enabling and simplifying critical elements of a robust cybersecurity architecture.”


Canberra, Australia

Dr. Vikram Sharma, Founder & CEO

Global leader in quantum cyber security; delivers unique solutions integrating high-value cybersecurity with advances in quantum technology to address the most difficult security challenges facing organizations