Faking photon number on a transition-edge sensor
Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo, N2L 3G1, Waterloo, ON, Canada
2 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Waterloo, N2L 3G1, Waterloo, ON, Canada
3 Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, 10400, Bangkok, Thailand
4 Quantum Technology Foundation (Thailand), 10110, Bangkok, Thailand
5 Purple Mountain Observatory and Key Laboratory of Radio Astronomy, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 10 Yuanhua road, 210033, Nanjing, People’s Republic of China
6 Institute for Quantum Information & State Key Laboratory of High Performance Computing, College of Computer Science and Technology, National University of Defense Technology, 410073, Changsha, People’s Republic of China
7 Centre for Quantum Technologies, National University of Singapore, 3 Science Drive 2, 117543, Singapore, Singapore
8 Russian Quantum Center, Skolkovo, 121205, Moscow, Russia
9 Shanghai Branch, National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at Microscale and CAS Center for Excellence in Quantum Information, University of Science and Technology of China, 201315, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China
10 NTI Center for Quantum Communications, National University of Science and Technology MISiS, 119049, Moscow, Russia
Accepted: 8 August 2022
Published online: 5 September 2022
We study potential security vulnerabilities of a single-photon detector based on superconducting transition-edge sensor. In one experiment, we show that an adversary could fake a photon number result at a certain wavelength by sending a larger number of photons at a longer wavelength, which is an expected and known behaviour. In another experiment, we unexpectedly find that the detector can be blinded by bright continuous-wave light and then, a controlled response simulating single-photon detection can be produced by applying a bright light pulse. We model an intercept-and-resend attack on a quantum key distribution system that exploits the latter vulnerability and, under certain assumptions, able to steal the key.
© The Author(s) 2022
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