Tech News : Oxford’s Secure Quantum Computing Breakthrough

17th April 2024

Researchers at Oxford University’s UK Quantum Computing and Simulation Hub claim to have made what could be an important breakthrough in quantum computing security.

The Issue 

As things stand, if businesses want to use cloud-based quantum computing services, they face privacy and security issues when trying to do so over a network, similar to the issues in traditional cloud computing. For example, users can’t keep their work secret from the server or check their results on their own when tasks get too complex for classical simulations, i.e. they risk disclosing sensitive information like the results of the computation or even the algorithm used itself.

The Breakthrough – ‘Blind Quantum Computing’ 

However, Oxford researchers have now developed “blind quantum computing” which is a method that enables users to access remote quantum computers to process confidential data with secret algorithms and even verify the results are correct, without having to reveal any useful information (thereby retaining security and privacy). In short, this breakthrough has developed a system for connecting two totally separate quantum computing entities (potentially an individual user accessing a cloud server) in a completely secure way.

How? 

The researchers achieved the breakthrough by creating a system from a fibre network link between a quantum computing server and a simple device detecting photons (particles of light), at an independent computer remotely accessing its cloud services.

This system was found to allow ‘blind quantum computing’ over a network as every computation incurs a correction which must be applied to all that follow and needs real-time information to comply with the algorithm. The researchers say it’s the unique combination of quantum memory and photons that’s the secret to the system.

What Will It Mean? 

As study lead-scientist, Dr Peter Drmota, pointed out: “Realising this concept is a big step forward in both quantum computing and keeping our information safe online.” Also, as Professor David Lucas, the Hub’s Principal Investigator, observed: “We have shown for the first time that quantum computing in the cloud can be accessed in a scalable, practical way which will also give people complete security and privacy of data, plus the ability to verify its authenticity”. 

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Quantum computers are able to dramatically accelerate tasks that have traditionally taken a long time, with astounding results, e.g. crunching numbers that would take a classical computer a week, could take a quantum computer less than a second.  As such, quantum computers are capable of solving some of the toughest challenges faced by many different industries, and some of the biggest challenges facing us all, such as how to successfully treat some of our most serious diseases and tackle the climate crisis.

However, they are very expensive and for businesses and organisations, the only hope is that they will be able to have access to quantum computers via the cloud as part of ‘Quantum-as-a-Service’, which at least a dozen companies are already offering. The opportunities for innovation and creating competitive advantages and/or achieving their own industry/sector breakthroughs or medical advances using the power of quantum computing are very attractive to many organisations. However, the security and privacy challenges of connecting with a quantum computer over a network have presented a considerable risk – up until now.

This breakthrough from the Oxford researchers appears, therefore, to be an important step in tackling a key challenge and also for potentially opening up access to quantum computing securely and privately, at scale for many businesses and organisations. The results could be a boost in value-adding innovations, and valuable new discoveries that could change the landscape in some sectors. This breakthrough represents another important step towards the future and puts the power of quantum computing within reach of many more ordinary people.