New breakthrough promises ‘entirely secure’ quantum cloud computing

New breakthrough promises ‘entirely secure’ quantum cloud computing

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Ever heard of hybrid matter-photon implementation of verifiable blind quantum computing?

No? Neither had we, until today. But it could just be what will make next-generation quantum computers securely accessible to “millions of individuals and companies” — without exposing any of their data. At least, according to scientists at Oxford University Physics.

A team of researchers at its UK Quantum Computing and Simulation Hub claim to have hit a major milestone for connecting two separate quantum entities — say a person at home accessing the cloud through an interface and a quantum computer server — without revealing the identity of the user, or even what they are asking the quantum computer to do. 

In an age where countries and companies alike fight billion-dollar trade battles over the capacity to develop proprietary algorithms, this is no small consideration.

Additionally, some of the first use cases for hybrid quantum-classical systems will be for industries that heavily rely on data security, such as pharmaceutical companies. 

Enter blind quantum computing

If you had the means to subscribe to the quantum cloud computing services of the likes of Google Quantum AI, IBM Q Experience, or Forest: Rigetti Computing you could, theoretically, already access quantum servers from home. 

However, beyond issues related to data reliability and authenticity, there are concerns about current security and encryption systems that could leave user data exposed. The Oxford team now believes to have found a means to alleviate these apprehensions. 

Specifically, the researchers set up a fibre network link between a quantum computing server and a device detecting photons (particles of light) at an independent computer remotely accessing the server through the cloud. In their words, “every computation incurs a correction which must be applied to all that follow and needs real-time information to comply with the algorithm.”

Using a unique combination of quantum memory and photons, this will allow for what they refer to as “blind” quantum computing.

This means that a user can have a computation performed on a quantum server, without revealing the nature of the computation to the server. The user does not need to have any quantum capabilities themselves — they just need to instruct the server through the interface. When finished with the calculations, the server then returns the results. 

“Using blind quantum computing, clients can access remote quantum computers to process confidential data with secret algorithms and even verify the results are correct, without revealing any useful information,” said Dr Peter Drmota, the study’s lead author. 

In terms of commercial applications, this could lead to something like a plug-in device for home laptops to safeguard privacy and help keep data secure when accessing quantum cloud servers. (Remember the days when we all carried around USB sticks?)

A new (quantum) approach to privacy

Quantum computers today have very limited use. Mostly, smaller systems are used to run experiments and train both corporates and scientists in preparation for when they eventually (inevitably?) become useful. Notably, the researchers say that the results of their study will scale for operations on larger quantum computer systems as they become available. 

Quantum computing could, in the future, lead to unbreakable encryption. It could also literally break the internet. But before that, blind quantum computing, while still in very early stages, could be another way in which the technology will challenge how we think about privacy and security in the cloud. 

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