Section: New Results

Error-correcting codes and applications

Participants : Mamdouh Abbara, Marion Bellard, Denise Maurice, Nicolas Sendrier, Jean-Christophe Sibel, Jean-Pierre Tillich, Audrey Tixier.

We mainly investigate two new application domains for decoding algorithms: reverse engineering of communication systems, and quantum error correcting codes for which we have shown that some of them can be decoded successfully with iterative decoding algorithms.

Quantum codes.

The knowledge we have acquired in iterative decoding techniques has also led to study whether or not the very same techniques could also be used to decode quantum codes. Part of the old ACI project “RQ” in which we were involved and the new ANR project “COCQ” are about this topic. It is worth noticing that protecting quantum information from external noise is an issue of paramount importance for building a quantum computer. It also worthwhile to notice that all quantum error-correcting code schemes proposed up to now suffer from the very same problem that the first (classical) error-correcting codes had: there are constructions of good quantum codes, but for the best of them it is not known how to decode them in polynomial time. Our approach for overcoming this problem has been to study whether or not the family of turbo-codes and LDPC codes (and the associated iterative decoding algorithms) have a quantum counterpart.

Recent results:

  • Construction of quantum LDPC codes obtained by transforming a quantum CSS LDPC code into a code over a larger alphabet which improves substantially the performances under iterative decoding [18] ;

  • Construction of spatially coupled quantum LDPC codes which performs well under iterative decoding almost up to the coherent capacity of the quantum channel [19] .

Reverse engineering of communication systems.

To evaluate the quality of a cryptographic algorithm, it is usually assumed that its specifications are public, as, in accordance with Kerckhoffs principle (Kerckhoffs stated that principle in a paper entitled La Cryptographie militaire, published in 1883.), it would be dangerous to rely, even partially, on the fact that the adversary does not know those specifications. However, this fundamental rule does not mean that the specifications are known to the attacker. In practice, before mounting a cryptanalysis, it is necessary to strip off the data. This reverse engineering process is often subtle, even when the data formatting is not concealed on purpose. A typical case is interception; some raw data, not necessarily encrypted, is observed out of a noisy channel. To access the information, the whole communication system has first to be disassembled and every constituent reconstructed. Our activity within this domain, whose first aim is to establish the scientific and technical foundations of a discipline which does not exist yet at an academic level, has been supported by some industrial contracts driven by the DGA and the French Ministry for Defense.

Recent results:

  • Recontruction of the constellation labeling (i.e. used in the modulator of a communication system) in presence of error and when the underlying code is convolutional [20] .