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Title: The security of self-differencing avalanche photodiodes for quantum key distribution
Author: Koehler-Sidki, Alexander Mark
ISNI:       0000 0004 9348 0321
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2020
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Quantum key distribution (QKD) allows two users to communicate with information theoretic security by encoding information on single photons. This security is based on the laws of physics and as such can never be broken in theory. However, in practice, components do not always behave according to their theoretical models and these deviations can be exploited by an eavesdropper. In recent years, exposing loopholes in QKD systems, known as quantum hacking, has attracted significant attention. The components most susceptible to being hacked are the single-photon detectors, often avalanche photodiodes (APDs), as they are directly exposed to the optical channel. Whilst measurement-device-independent QKD removes detector vulnerability from the system, secure key rates with this technique can be much lower than point-to-point links. As such, mitigating attacks on QKD systems is a pressing challenge in QKD. In this thesis, the focus is on a special class of detectors, self-differencing APDs (SD-APDs), which have facilitated state-of-the art demonstrations of QKD. The susceptibility of SD-APDs to blinding attacks, the most explored and successful attack to date, was investigated and it was shown that by following best practice for their operation, such an attack would be unsuccessful. We have also proposed and developed a countermeasure such that the onus for appropriate operation could be removed from the user. We have also explored an arguably more dangerous attack, in the form of the after-gate attack. We have shown that delayed detection events, ordinarily considered detrimental in QKD, can provide inherent protection against this attack. Finally, backflashes in GHz-gated APDs were investigated for the first time and it was shown that threat they pose to QKD security is negligible. These results highlight the inherent protection to a number of attacks that self-differencing APDs possess. We stress that the findings presented in this thesis are also applicable to other types of fast-gated InGaAs APDs that don't possess self-differencing circuitry.
Supervisor: Savory, Seb Sponsor: EPSRC ; Toshiba
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Quantum Key Distribution ; Avalanche Photodiodes ; Quantum Hacking ; Implementation Security ; Quantum Cryptography ; Semiconductor Detectors