Cryptographic security and averting the quantum apocalypse

Faculty of Science
Mathematics and statistics
Students by the Rideau canal with STEM complex in the background
The quantum apocalypse is coming. Although this sounds like a bad nightmare, once quantum computers exist, our current communication channels will inevitably become obsolete and completely insecure. In other words, encrypted data will be easily hackable.

Felix Hufnagel and Rabib Islam, graduate students in the Departments of Physics and Mathematics & Statistics, respectively, are both striving to combat insecure communication. Recently, they were awarded the inaugural Xanadu Graduate Prize in Quantum Photonics and Information for their outstanding MSc papers on the topic of quantum computing.  

Felix Hufnagel
Felix Hufnagel

Felix Hufnagel is a PhD candidate supervised by Professor Ebrahim Karimi, whose research makes use of multiple aspects of light to generate new high dimensional ways of performing quantum information tasks. For instance, Felix and his team conducted free-space underwater communication experiments – where light passes directly through water – using single photons to transmit signals between two parties. His objective is to design new protocols for how those two points can communicate, in order to improve the type of environments in which they communicate and the error thresholds that they can withstand. Once quantum computers are a reality, Felix’s findings will allow people to communicate securely with their governments, banks, and friends.   

Rabib Islam
Rabib Islam

Rabib Islam completed his graduate studies under the supervision of Professor Anne Broadbent. The primary goal of his MSc research was to develop a novel encryption scheme using mathematics to give people a way to prove that encrypted data is deleted. Although this research does not require quantum computers, it involves systems that communicate using quantum information. Currently, Rabib is a smart contract auditor at Quantstamp – a company that focuses on blockchain security – where he ensures that smart contracts (a type of web application) are not vulnerable to malicious actors. During his time at uOttawa, Rabib was part of the Quantum Security via Algebras and Representation Theory (QUASAR) research group.      

In addition to these graduate prizes, Xanadu has also partnered with uOttawa to provide researchers and students with opportunities to gain practical experience using Xanadu’s commercially available quantum computers, a collaboration expected to advance the development of quantum computing, novel quantum algorithms and applications.

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