Vulnerability of satellite quantum key distribution to disruption from ground-based lasers

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Satellite-mediated quantum key distribution (QKD) is set to become a critical technology for quantum-secure communication over long distances. While satellite QKD cannot be effectively eavesdropped, we show it can be disrupted (or ‘jammed’) with relatively simple and readily available equipment. We developed an atmospheric attenuation and satellite optical scattering model to estimate the rate of excess noise photons that can be injected into a satellite QKD channel by an off-axis laser, and calculated the effect this added noise has on the quantum bit error rate. We show that a ground-based laser on the order of 1 kW can significantly disrupt modern satellite QKD systems due to photons scattering off the satellite being detected by the QKD receiver on the ground. This class of laser can be purchased commercially, meaning such a method of disruption could be a serious threat to effectively securing high-value communications via satellite QKD in the future. We also discuss these results in relation to likely future developments in satellite-mediated QKD systems, and countermeasures that can be taken against this, and related methods, of disruption.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7904
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


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