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Random numbers are the basis of cryptography keys. These keys can in turn be used to encrypt critical data, by encoding information into an unreadable mush for anyone but those who are equipped with the appropriate key to decode the message. The more random the key is, the harder it is to crack by a malicious actor trying to get their hands on the data.
Modern cryptography relies on new technologies known as random number generators, which create streams of bits that are used to produce strong cryptography keys. Combining the capabilities of two quantum computers, a researcher from Amazon’s quantum unit Braket has come up with a new way to create truly random numbers that are necessary to protect sensitive data online, ranging from blockchain ledgers to government secrets.
Amazon’s research scientist Mario Berta put together Rigetti’s and IonQ’s quantum processors, which are both available through the company’s cloud-based quantum computing services. To differ from traditional methods, quantum-generated numbers make use of the inherent unpredictability of the physics of microscopically small systems.
The catch is that today’s quantum computers are unreliable and noisy, which can alter the randomness of the quantum effect and defeat the whole point of the experiment. What’s more: information about the noise can leak into the environment, meaning that a potential hacker could find the data they need.
To tackle this issue, Berta used two quantum processors to produce two independent strings of bits which he described as “weakly”. The strings are then processed by a classical algorithm called a randomness extractor (RE), which can combine multiple sources of weakly random bits into one output string that is nearly perfectly random. Unlike with classical means, the post-processing doesn’t involve any computational assumptions, which could be cracked by hackers. Rather, REs condense physical randomness from the different sources, according to zdnet.com.
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