Computational encryption, information-theoretic secrecy and quantum cryptography offer progressively stronger security against unauthorized decoding of messages contained in communication transmissions. However, these approaches do not ensure stealth - that the mere presence of message-bearing transmissions be undetectable. We characterize the ultimate limit of how much data can be reliably and covertly communicated over the lossy thermal-noise bosonic channel (which models various practical communication channels). We show that whenever there is some channel noise that cannot in principle be controlled by an otherwise arbitrarily powerful adversary - for example, thermal noise from blackbody radiation - the number of reliably transmissible covert bits is at most proportional to the square root of the number of orthogonal modes (the time-bandwidth product) available in the transmission interval. We demonstrate this in a proof-of-principle experiment. Our result paves the way to realizing communications that are kept covert from an all-powerful quantum adversary.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)