Controlling passively quenched single photon detectors by bright light
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionNew Journal of Physics 2009, 11 10.1088/1367-2630/11/6/065003
Single photon detectors (SPDs) based on passively quenched avalanche photodiodes can be temporarily blinded by relatively bright light, of intensity less than 1nW. A bright-light regime suitable for attacking a quantum key distribution system containing such detectors is described in this paper. In this regime, all SPDs in the receiver Bob are uniformly blinded by continuous illumination coming from the eavesdropper Eve. When Eve needs a certain detector in Bob to produce a click, she modifies the polarization (or other parameters used to encode quantum states) of the light she sends to Bob such that the target detector stops receiving light, while the other detector(s) continue to be illuminated. The target detector regains single photon sensitivity and, when Eve modifies the polarization again, produces a single click. Thus, Eve has full control of Bob and can perform a successful intercept–resend attack. To check the feasibility of the attack, three different models of passively quenched detectors have been tested. In the experiment, I have simulated the intensity diagrams the detectors would receive in a real QKD system under attack. Control parameters and side effects are considered. It appears that the attack could be practically possible.