Reconstructing quantum circuits through side-channel information on cloud-based superconducting quantum computers

Brennan Bell*, Andreas Trugler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperpeer-review


Our aim in this paper is to present experimental evidence of a side-channel attack on superconducting cloud-based quantum computers, demonstrating that a quantum circuit can be analyzed indirectly using data gathered before and after its execution on a quantum computer. We hope that this can motivate further research into hardware and system stability of quantum computers as well as into more-nuanced systems-level attacks. Although much work has been done on establishing error correcting codes to address issues of decoherence, and schemes can be utilized to leverage quantum effects for the sake of intrusion detection over quantum communication channels, there is a lack of literature in the field regarding side-channel attacks on transpiled quantum circuits, particularly those which leverage quantum effects to gather information about quantum circuits running in the cloud. We explored issues of decoherence by examining quantum circuit behavior both before and after a specified circuit was executed in order to ascertain decalibration rates and potential sources of decoherence: our data clearly shows that information on an interim circuit can be acquired in this manner. Using convenient data classification techniques and various circuit diagrams consisting of one quantum gate and several measurements, we were able to distinguish between these various circuits when executed at position n in the interim phase by training our classifier on data from probing circuits executed at queue positions n-1 and n+1. This shows that there is sufficient information residing in the data before and after a circuit is executed on a cloud-based superconducting quantum computer to allow an attacker to ascertain information about an otherwise unknown third-party circuit and shows potential to form the basis of a side-channel attack in cases where queue positions can be examined to target a third party's transpiled circuit during experimentation. This side channel attack merits further examination and extrapolation to identify more-complex circuits, and deeper statistical consideration to determine potential sources of information leakage and mitigation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2022 IEEE International Conference on Quantum Computing and Engineering, QCE 2022
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781665491136
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Event3rd IEEE International Conference on Quantum Computing and Engineering: QCE 2022 - Broomfield, United States
Duration: 18 Sep 202223 Sep 2022


Conference3rd IEEE International Conference on Quantum Computing and Engineering
Abbreviated titleQCE 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • attack
  • classification
  • computation
  • cryptography
  • decoherence
  • experiment
  • quantum
  • side-channel
  • superconducting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Control and Optimization
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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