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Boffins Propose Secure Method For Quantum Computing In The Cloud

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A research team has managed to extend quantum computing to the Cloud, with the advantage of enhanced security

Scientists have offered up a potential solution to one of the principle concerns about Cloud Computing – security. This came after a study showed how quantum computing can be extended to include cloud services.

The theory was revealed in a report in Science, and has been dubbed “blind quantum computing”. The research was carried out by Vienna Centre for Quantum Science and Technology (VCQ) at the University of Vienna.

Blind Quantum Computing

Essentially, what the boffins did was demonstrate how blind quantum computing can be extended to Cloud services, such as Google Docs, but crucially for businesses without the loss of security. This is because the so-called blind quantum computing can be carried out without a cloud computer ever knowing what the data actually is.

“Researchers have succeeded in combining the power of quantum computing with the security of quantum cryptography and have shown that perfectly secure cloud computing can be achieved using the principles of quantum mechanics,” the research team said in a statement.

“They have performed an experimental demonstration of quantum computation in which the input, the data processing, and the output remain unknown to the quantum computer.”

Quantum computers are often touted as the future of computers, because they make use of quantum mechanical phenomena to perform much quicker data operations. This is very different to traditional digital computers that are based on transistors, and which require data to be encoded into binary digits.

But quantum computing is still in its infancy and it is likely to only exist in specialist facilities for the foreseeable future.

Cloudy Data

The researchers said that their scenario follows the current trend of cloud computing: that is, central remote servers are used to store and process data – everything is done in the “cloud.” However the big challenge is to ensure security and protect the data.

“Quantum physics solves one of the key challenges in distributed computing. It can preserve data privacy when users interact with remote computing centres,” said Stefanie Barz, lead author of the study.

The team believes that quantum computers “enable the delegation of a quantum computation from a user who does not hold any quantum computational power to a quantum server, while guaranteeing that the user’s data remain perfectly private. The quantum server performs calculations, but has no means to find out what it is doing – a functionality not known to be achievable in the classical world.”

The scientists said that, in their experiment, when they performed the first known quantum computation, the user’s data stayed perfectly encrypted.

“The experimental demonstration uses photons, or ‘light particles’ to encode the data,” the team said. “Photonic systems are well-suited to the task because quantum computation operations can be performed on them, and they can be transmitted over long distances.”

Techie Speak

The team then described how the process actually works (the following is a bit technical, so those not technically mind should look away now).

Firstly, the user prepares qubits (quantum particles or quantum bits), which are the fundamental unit of quantum computers, in a state known only to himself. He then sends these qubits to the quantum computer. The computer entangles the qubits according to a standard scheme.

The actual computation is measurement-based: the processing of quantum information is implemented by simple measurements on qubits. The user tailors measurement instructions to the particular state of each qubit and sends them to the quantum server.

Finally, the results of the computation are sent back to the user who can interpret and use the results of the computation. Even if the quantum computer or an eavesdropper tries to read the qubits, they gain no useful information, without knowing the initial state; they are “blind”.

Quantum Breakthroughs

The Austrian work comes after Cambridge scientists revealed a quantum computing breakthrough earlier this month when they created a quantum fluid. Prior to that scientists at the University of New South Wales in Australia said they had created a nanoscale wire four atoms thick that could extend the life of Moore’s Law and open other new possibilities for computer technology.

In December, British nanotechnology firm Nanoco revealed it was working with Asian electronics manufacturers to produce next-generation televisions using ‘quantum dots’, a type of tiny three-dimensional semiconductor discovered in the early 1980s.