Securing the high speed transfer
of large scale sensitive genome data between two remote sites

Genome researchers have always been concerned about the security of transferring large-scale genome sequence data. Indeed, there have been examples where they have physically transported hard disks in locked security boxes, which is clearly problematic in terms of cost and time.

Sending data electronically between two sites makes it vulnerable to interception and even public key encryption of the data in transit is vulnerable to a “harvesting” attack. “Harvesting” is where the attacker systematically records the data in transit and decrypts at their leisure. This threat is becoming more urgent with the speed at which quantum computing can perform calculations that will dramatically reduce the time to decrypt data protected with public key cryptography.

Driven by this challenge, Toshiba Corporation and Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization at Tohoku University ( “ToMMo”) conducted a trial demonstration of Toshiba’s “Quantum Key Distribution (QKD)”.

Protecting large volumes of high value data in transit

The trial between Toshiba Corporation and ToMMo was intended to solve for the following two problems.

First, genomic data (genome and DNA data) under certain conditions is legally treated as personal information identifying specific individuals and comprises approximately 3.2 billion bases. High-precision analysis using the latest sequencers obtains more than 90 billion bases, nearly thirty times that number.

Second, at the time of the trial, the key distribution speed with quantum cryptographic communication technologies was at a maximum of around 10 Mbps, so the speed at which data could be encrypted and transmitted with the one-time pad was limited.

During a two year period from August 2015 until August 2017. Toshiba Life Science Analysis Center genome data produced with the “Japonica Array™*1” Japanese genome analysis tool was encrypted with a Toshiba QKD system and transmitted to ToMMo, over a distance of 7 km.

The testing monitored and verified communication stability speed in long-term operation and the impact of environmental conditions, including weather, temperature and the status of the optical connection.

World-first success in high-speed quantum cryptographic communications with key distribution speeds exceeding 10 Mbps in a real-world environment

The results of the first objective showed that Toshiba and the ToMMo successfully applied Toshiba QKD to achieve world-first quantum cryptography communication averaging distribution speeds exceeding 10 Mbps over installed optical fiber lines during August 2018.

The companies constructed an application for data transmission via optical fiber lines, which when combined with high-speed QKD technologies demonstrated practical key distribution speeds even in a real-world environment.

The companies furthermore constructed and operated a wireless sensor network that continuously monitors installed fiber optic lines, and clarified the relationships between characteristic changes in optical fiber due to year-round variations in temperature, rainfall, snowfall, wind speed, earthquakes, and other factors and the performance characteristics of quantum cryptographic communications. This is a highly significant advance toward the practical application of high-speed quantum cryptography communications.

World-first Demonstration of Real-time Transmission of Whole-genome Sequence Data Using One-time pad

The second objective was reached in January 2020 by Toshiba and ToMMo developed a system for sequential encryption and transmission of large-scale data, by realizing real-time transmission of whole-genome sequence data with the one-time pad method.

When transmitting large-scale, highly confidential genome analysis data, the developed technologies transmit genomic analysis data output from next-generation sequencers using quantum cryptography with the one-time pad instead of transmitting all the data at once. By sequentially transmitting data as it comes out of sequencers, it is possible to reduce delay in transmission processing for the large amounts of whole-genome-analysis data.

Conclusion

Toshiba and ToMMo developed a system for sequential encryption and transmission of large-scale data, thereby realizing real-time transmission of whole-genome sequence data with the one-time pad method. By sequentially transmitting data as it comes out of sequencers, it was possible to reduce delay in transmission processing for the large amounts of whole-genome-analysis data. As an illustration: Analysis of 24 people generated approx. 2.3 trillion bases of human genome information and took over 117 hours to generate. This data was securely transmitted across the data link in around 3min 30sec after the data analysis was complete.

Whether you need to send confidential medical, personal or financial data to offsite storage or processing or want to send manufacturing data from your design department to the manufacturing center, Toshiba QKD provides a reliable secure route.

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