Protecting quantum computing networks against hacking threats

February 03, 2017

As we saw during the 2016 US election, protecting traditional computer systems, which use zeros and ones, from hackers is not a perfect science. Now consider the complex world of quantum computing, where bits of information can simultaneously hold multiple states beyond zero and one, and the potential threats become even trickier to tackle. Even so, researchers at the University of Ottawa have uncovered clues that could help administrators protect quantum computing networks from external attacks.

"Our team has built the first high-dimensional quantum cloning machine capable of performing quantum hacking to intercept a secure quantum message," said University of Ottawa Department of Physics professor Ebrahim Karimi, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Structured Light. "Once we were able to analyze the results, we discovered some very important clues to help protect quantum computing networks against potential hacking threats."

Quantum systems were believed to provide perfectly secure data transmission because until now, attempts to copy the transmitted information resulted in an altered or deteriorated version of the original information, thereby defeating the purpose of the initial hack. Traditional computing allows a hacker to simply copy and paste information and replicate it exactly, but this doesn't hold true in the quantum computing world, where attempts to copy quantum information-or qudits-result in what Karimi refers to as "bad" copies. Until now.

For the first time, Professor Karimi's team was able to clone the photons that transmit information, namely the single carriers of light known as qubits, as well as quantum theory allows, meaning that the clones were almost exact replicas of the original information. However, in addition to undermining what was previously thought to be a perfect way of securely transmitting information, the researchers' analyses revealed promising clues into how to protect against such hacking.

"What we found was that when larger amounts of quantum information are encoded on a single photon, the copies will get worse and hacking even simpler to detect," said Frédéric Bouchard, a University of Ottawa doctoral student and lead author of an open access publication that appeared this month in the renowned journal Science Advances. "We were also able to show that cloning attacks introduce specific, observable noises in a secure quantum communication channel. Ensuring photons contain the largest amount of information possible and monitoring these noises in a secure channel should help strengthen quantum computing networks against potential hacking threats."

Karimi and his team hope that their quantum hacking efforts could be used to study quantum communication systems, or more generally to study how quantum information travels across quantum computer networks. To read their paper, visit the Science Advances website.
The University of Ottawa -- A crossroads of cultures and ideas

The University of Ottawa is home to over 50,000 students, faculty and staff, who live, work and study in both French and English. Our campus is a crossroads of cultures and ideas, where bold minds come together to inspire game-changing ideas. We are one of Canada's top 10 research universities -- our professors and researchers explore new approaches to today's challenges. One of a handful of Canadian universities ranked among the top 200 in the world, we attract exceptional thinkers and welcome diverse perspectives from across the globe.

Media inquiries

Amélie Ferron-Craig
University of Ottawa
Media Relations Officer
Cell: 613-863-7221

University of Ottawa

Related Quantum Computing Articles from Brightsurf:

Bringing a power tool from math into quantum computing
The Fourier transform is a mathematical operation essential to virtually all fields of physics and engineering.

New detector breakthrough pushes boundaries of quantum computing
A new paper published in Nature shows potential for graphene bolometers to become a game-changer for quantum technology

A molecular approach to quantum computing
Molecules in quantum superposition could help in the development of quantum computers.

Cosmic rays may soon stymie quantum computing
Infinitesimally low levels of radiation, such as from incoming cosmic rays, may soon stymie progress in quantum computing.

UVA pioneers study of genetic diseases with quantum computing
Scientists are harnessing the mind-bending potential of quantum computers to help us understand genetic diseases - even before quantum computers are a thing.

New method predicts spin dynamics of materials for quantum computing
Researchers at UC Santa Cruz have developed a theoretical foundation and new computational tools for predicting a material's spin dynamics, a key property for building solid-state quantum computing platforms and other applications of spintronics.

Speeding-up quantum computing using giant atomic ions
An international team of researchers have found a new way to speed up quantum computing that could pave the way for huge leaps forward in computer processing power.

Boson particles discovery provides insights for quantum computing
Researchers working on a U.S. Army project discovered a key insight for the development of quantum devices and quantum computers.

In leap for quantum computing, silicon quantum bits establish a long-distance relationship
In an important step forward in the quest to build a quantum computer using silicon-based hardware, researchers at Princeton have succeeded in making possible the exchange of information between two qubits located relatively far apart -- about the length of a grain of rice, which is a considerable distance on a computer chip.

Diversity may be key to reducing errors in quantum computing
In quantum computing, as in team building, a little diversity can help get the job done better, computer scientists have discovered.

Read More: Quantum Computing News and Quantum Computing Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to