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The Quantum Computer and the Obsolescence of Current Encryption

Author: Scarinci Hollenbeck|November 11, 2015

The largest threat to the overwhelming majority of cybersecurity methods is the quantum computer. Mostly theoretical, with a few incomplete working models, the quantum computer is the next leap in computer technology.

The Quantum Computer and the Obsolescence of Current Encryption

The largest threat to the overwhelming majority of cybersecurity methods is the quantum computer. Mostly theoretical, with a few incomplete working models, the quantum computer is the next leap in computer technology.

Although an aeon in technology, a fully operational model will be available within the decade. Its arrival will be the moment that all common encryption means of data security become totally obsolete. With access to such a computer, one person in one day can decrypt almost every secured file. Government secrets, medical records, financial, and personal information, previously kept safe through encryption, would be freely available.

The quantum computer differs from a classical computer in how its “bits” work. A bit is the smallest amount of information a computer can process. What makes the world “digital” is that these bits are the familiar ones and zeroes. Thus, the smallest amount of information a classical computer can process is either a 1 or a 0. In the quantum computer, however, the smallest amount of information is a “qubit.” The qubit can be either 1 or 0, but it can also be 1 and 0 simultaneously. While defying common sense and our usual logic, this is just a manifestation of “superposition” in quantum mechanics.

As mentioned in my post What is Cyber-Security, encryption relies on “mathematical hardness.” That is, all the information required to crack an encryption is available, but the math required to successfully utilize that information is so onerous that it would take classical computers far too long to crack. Currently, the best of these encryptions would take a supercomputer more than the age of the universe to crack. A quantum computer can use the superposition of its qubits to arrive at the correct answer within seconds, because it can effectively do every step of the cracking algorithm simultaneously—not one step after another. Therefore, the “mathematical hardness” of decryption will be completely meaningless.

While engendering concern, the quantum computer offers real opportunity. It expands computing thought and ability beyond Moore’s Law, a necessary step as classical computers encounter the physical limitations of modern hardware. The director of Mathematics at Stevens Institute of Technology expressed his excitement for the new innovations saying, “Everything in the field of quantum computing and cryptographic mathematics is wide open. There remain fundamental mathematical questions that affect the very nature of current and future cryptographic methods.” More on the mathematics required to make cyber security quantum-resistant.

Although exciting to the mathematics community, security services are beginning to express their apprehension about the potential of such a machine. The NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ have already begun alerting the public to the threat of quantum computing, recommending that organizations update their algorithms to be quantum-resistant. However, because the quantum computer is not online, the legitimacy of quantum-resistant algorithms has yet to be tested. Further, because no system is currently threatened, it is unlikely that any organization would expend the large sums needed to upgrade their security.

Nonetheless, the looming threat of the quantum computer will materialize. When it does, every encryption it can crack, every expert on those encryption algorithms, and every company selling them will be as antiquated as the electronic typewriter.

Related Article:
What Is Cyber Security? It Starts With Cryptology

Cyber Insecurity: Ashley Madison Encrypted Passwords Cracked.

Survey Reveals Many Business Executives Lack Cybersecurity Confidence

Top Cybersecurity Threats Unveiled by Hackers – Is Anyone Safe?

Additional information and resources:
Cyber Security And Data Protection Group

Intellectual Property And Technology

The Quantum Computer and the Obsolescence of Current Encryption

Author: Scarinci Hollenbeck

Although an aeon in technology, a fully operational model will be available within the decade. Its arrival will be the moment that all common encryption means of data security become totally obsolete. With access to such a computer, one person in one day can decrypt almost every secured file. Government secrets, medical records, financial, and personal information, previously kept safe through encryption, would be freely available.

The quantum computer differs from a classical computer in how its “bits” work. A bit is the smallest amount of information a computer can process. What makes the world “digital” is that these bits are the familiar ones and zeroes. Thus, the smallest amount of information a classical computer can process is either a 1 or a 0. In the quantum computer, however, the smallest amount of information is a “qubit.” The qubit can be either 1 or 0, but it can also be 1 and 0 simultaneously. While defying common sense and our usual logic, this is just a manifestation of “superposition” in quantum mechanics.

As mentioned in my post What is Cyber-Security, encryption relies on “mathematical hardness.” That is, all the information required to crack an encryption is available, but the math required to successfully utilize that information is so onerous that it would take classical computers far too long to crack. Currently, the best of these encryptions would take a supercomputer more than the age of the universe to crack. A quantum computer can use the superposition of its qubits to arrive at the correct answer within seconds, because it can effectively do every step of the cracking algorithm simultaneously—not one step after another. Therefore, the “mathematical hardness” of decryption will be completely meaningless.

While engendering concern, the quantum computer offers real opportunity. It expands computing thought and ability beyond Moore’s Law, a necessary step as classical computers encounter the physical limitations of modern hardware. The director of Mathematics at Stevens Institute of Technology expressed his excitement for the new innovations saying, “Everything in the field of quantum computing and cryptographic mathematics is wide open. There remain fundamental mathematical questions that affect the very nature of current and future cryptographic methods.” More on the mathematics required to make cyber security quantum-resistant.

Although exciting to the mathematics community, security services are beginning to express their apprehension about the potential of such a machine. The NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ have already begun alerting the public to the threat of quantum computing, recommending that organizations update their algorithms to be quantum-resistant. However, because the quantum computer is not online, the legitimacy of quantum-resistant algorithms has yet to be tested. Further, because no system is currently threatened, it is unlikely that any organization would expend the large sums needed to upgrade their security.

Nonetheless, the looming threat of the quantum computer will materialize. When it does, every encryption it can crack, every expert on those encryption algorithms, and every company selling them will be as antiquated as the electronic typewriter.

Related Article:
What Is Cyber Security? It Starts With Cryptology

Cyber Insecurity: Ashley Madison Encrypted Passwords Cracked.

Survey Reveals Many Business Executives Lack Cybersecurity Confidence

Top Cybersecurity Threats Unveiled by Hackers – Is Anyone Safe?

Additional information and resources:
Cyber Security And Data Protection Group

Intellectual Property And Technology

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