This doctoral thesis summarizes research in quantum cryptography done at the Department of Electronics and Telecommunications at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) from 1998 through 2007.
The opening parts contain a brief introduction into quantum cryptography as well as an overview of all existing single photon detection techniques for visible and near infrared light. Then, our implementation of a fiber optic quantum key distribution (QKD) system is described. We employ a one-way phase coding scheme with a 1310 nm attenuated laser source and a polarization-maintaining Mach-Zehnder interferometer. A feature of our scheme is that it tracks phase drift in the interferometer at the single photon level instead of employing hardware phase control measures. An optimal phase tracking algorithm has been developed, implemented and tested. Phase tracking accuracy of +-10 degrees is achieved when approximately 200 photon counts are collected in each cycle of adjustment. Another feature of our QKD system is that it uses a single photon detector based on a germanium avalanche photodiode gated at 20 MHz. To make possible this relatively high gating rate, we have developed, implemented and tested an afterpulse blocking technique, when a number of gating pulses is blocked after each registered avalanche. This technique allows to increase the key generation rate nearly proportionally to the increase of the gating rate. QKD has been demonstrated in the laboratory setting with only a very limited success: by the time of the thesis completion we had malfunctioning components in the setup, and the quantum bit error rate remained unstable with its lowest registered value of about 4%.
More than half of the thesis is devoted to various security aspects of QKD. We have studied several attacks that exploit component imperfections and loopholes in optical schemes. In a large pulse attack, settings of modulators inside Alice's and Bob's setups are read out by external interrogating light pulses, without interacting with quantum states and without raising security alarms. An external measurement of phase shift at Alice's phase modulator in our setup has been demonstrated experimentally. In a faked states attack, Eve intercepts Alice's qubits and then utilizes various optical imperfections in Bob's scheme to construct and resend light pulses in such a way that Bob does not distinguish his detection results from normal, whereas they give Bob the basis and bit value chosen at Eve's discretion. Construction of such faked states using several different imperfections is discussed. Also, we sketch a practical workflow of breaking into a running quantum cryptolink for the two abovementioned classes of attacks. A special attention is paid to a common imperfection when sensitivity of Bob's two detectors relative to one another can be controlled by Eve via an external parameter, for example via the timing of the incoming pulse. This imperfection is illustrated by measurements on two different single photon detectors. Quantitative results for a faked states attack on the Bennett-Brassard 1984 (BB84) and the Scarani-Acin-Ribordy-Gisin 2004 (SARG04) protocols using this imperfection are obtained. It is shown how faked states can in principle be constructed for quantum cryptosystems that use a phase-time encoding, the differential phase shift keying (DPSK) and the Ekert protocols. Furthermore we have attempted to integrate this imperfection of detectors into the general security proof for the BB84 protocol. For all attacks, their applicability to and implications for various known QKD schemes are considered, and countermeasures against the attacks are proposed.
The thesis incorporates published papers [J. Mod. Opt. 48, 2023 (2001)], [Appl. Opt. 43, 4385 (2004)], [J. Mod. Opt. 52, 691 (2005)], [Phys. Rev. A 74, 022313 (2006)], and [quant-ph/0702262].