Norwegian University of Science and Technology Department of Electronics and Telecommunications
  Jolly Phi    
Quantum Hacking
        University Graduate Center in Kjeller  


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Our research

The Quantum Hacking group works in the field of quantum cryptography and quantum information. In quantum information science the information unit is not a bit, but rather a quantum bit – qubit. A qubit may not only be zero or one, but also zero and one simultaneously! In our work, we use photons as physical representation of qubits.

Quantum cryptography is a method of secure communication using qubits. Such communication is based on the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. If an eavesdropper listens to qubits, she changes them, which is inevitably noticed by the legitimate users. That is, any attempt of eavesdropping will be caught (in theory).

Our task is to make sure eavesdropping also gets caught in practice. In our daily work, we scrutinize implementations of quantum cryptography. First, we play the role of the eavesdropper and try to hack quantum cryptosystems by taking advantage of non-ideal behavior of the present-day quantum cryptographic hardware. Naturally, we often do find security problems. Then, we suggest countermeasures, either practically by modifying the setups, or theoretically by modifying the way of communicating. This is an iterative process. It should eventually make quantum cryptosystems harder to crack, ultimately approaching the goal of absolute security.

Hacking cryptographic hardware

Practical implementations of quantum cryptography are quite complicated, and often leave loopholes to the eavesdropper. During the last few years, we have studied several hardware loopholes: We introduced a faked-state attack, a general type of attack that exploits imperfections in Bob’s optical scheme, and in one case fully implemented it on an installed quantum cryptography link.

Security proofs

How can we make a system secure when there are imperfections? With the rules of quantum mechanics, we can prove security even in the presence of non-ideal equipment. We try to incorporate different kinds of imperfections into the security proofs. Our ultimate goal is a completely secure system, where all imperfections that cannot be eliminated are taken into account.
Team of researchers after completing a joint experiment in Singapore  

Current collaborations

In addition, we are a member of the topical team Space-QUEST.
   Dress rehearsal of eavesdropping experiment in Singapore lab
Testing eavesdropping experiment in lab
   Qin Liu assembles faked-state generator
Assembling equipment for eavesdropping experiment
   Vadim Makarov works with PerkinElmer detector.  Image ©
Hacking single-photon detector
   Clavis2 quantum key distribution system made by id Quantique
Inside commercial quantum cryptosystem
   Artem Vakhitov tunes up eavesdropper’s setup
Master student tunes up eavesdropper’s setup for Trojan-horse attack
Part of our fiber-optic quantum key distribution system
Quantum Hacking group in November 2008 
Our group in Trondheim, November 2008
 Eve :(