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Avatar: Abstract Blue Circle

[Everyday Regular N-
ormal Klan

Level 69 Hacker

“Trojan Horse Magnum”

handofg0d Posted:

BB84 protocol: Charles H. Bennett and Gilles Brbumard (1984)

This protocol, known as BB84 after its inventors and year of publication, was originally described using photon polarization states to transmit the information. However, any two pairs of conjugate states can be used for the protocol, and many optical fibre based implementations described as BB84 use phase encoded states. The sender (traditionally referred to as Alice) and the receiver (Bob) are connected by a quantum communication channel which allows quantum states to be transmitted. In the case of photons this channel is generally either an optical fibre or simply free space. In addition they communicate via a public clbumical channel, for example using broadcast radio or the internet. Neither of these channels need to be secure; the protocol is designed with the bumumption that an eavesdropper (referred to as Eve) can interfere in any way with both.

The security of the protocol comes from encoding the information in non-orthogonal states. Quantum indeterminacy means that these states cannot in general be measured without disturbing the original state (see No cloning theorem). BB84 uses two pairs of states, with each pair conjugate to the other pair, and the two states within a pair orthogonal to each other. Pairs of orthogonal states are referred to as a basis. The usual polarization state pairs used are either the rectilinear basis of vertical (0°) and horizontal (90°), the diagonal basis of 45° and 135° or the circular basis of left- and right-handedness. Any two of these bases are conjugate to each other, and so any two can be used in the protocol. Below the rectilinear and diagonal bases are used.

Basis 0 1

The first step in BB84 is quantum transmission. Alice creates a random bit (0 or 1) and then randomly selects one of her two bases (rectilinear or diagonal in this case) to transmit it in. She then prepares a photon polarization state depending both on the bit value and basis, as shown in the table to the left. So for example a 0 is encoded in the rectilinear basis (+) as a vertical polarization state, and a 1 is encoded in the diagonal basis (x) as a 135° state. Alice then transmits a single photon in the state specified to Bob, using the quantum channel. This process is then repeated from the random bit stage, with Alice recording the state, basis and time of each photon sent.

Quantum mechanics (particularly quantum indeterminacy) says there is no possible measurement that will distinguish between the 4 different polarization states, as they are not all orthogonal. The only measurement possible is between any two orthogonal states (a basis), so for example measuring in the rectilinear basis will give a result of horizontal or vertical. If the photon was created as horizontal or vertical (as a rectilinear eigenstate) then this will measure the correct state, but if it was created as 45° or 135° (diagonal eigenstates) then the rectilinear measurement will instead return either horizontal or vertical at random. Furthermore, after this measurement the photon will be polarized in the state it was measured in (horizontal or vertical), with all information about its initial polarization lost.

As Bob does not know the basis the photons were encoded in, all he can do is select a basis at random to measure in, either rectilinear or diagonal. He does this for each photon he receives, recording the time, measurement basis used and measurement result. After Bob has measured all the photons, he communicates with Alice over the public clbumical channel. Alice broadcasts the basis each photon was sent in, and Bob the basis each was measured in. They both discard photon measurements (bits) where Bob used a different basis, which will be half on average, leaving half the bits as a shared key.

Alice’s random bit 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1

Alice’s random sending basis

Photon polarization Alice sends

Bob’s random measuring basis

Photon polarization Bob measures


Shared secret key 0 1 0 1

To check for the presence of eavesdropping Alice and Bob now compare a certain subset of their remaining bit strings. If a third party (usually referred to as Eve, for ‘eavesdropper’Log in to see images!

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