Quantum Computer Power Threatens Encryption

Encryption has played a core role in securing enterprise data, but as quantum computers become more advanced, traditional encryption solutions and public-key cryptography standards, which enterprise and consumer vendors rely on to secure their products, are at serious risk of decryption. 

The power of quantum computers lies in the fact that they can carry out many computations, while simultaneously considering several different configurations. As a result, they are much faster than traditional computers. 

Many people who have heard of quantum computing know that it’s coming and are aware that it will bring an almost unimaginable speed-up in the ability of computers to perform many kinds of calculations. This will allow wonderful advances in, for example, our ability to discover new materials and design new life-saving drugs. Now, cyber security researchers and analysts are worried that a new type of computer, based on quantum physics rather than more standard electronics, could break most modern cryptography. The effect would be to make communications as insecure as if they weren’t encoded at all.

Quantum computers have a significant and growing potential to change the way we process information, and they can also be used by our potential enemies for significant and highly destructive new modes of cyber attack.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is concerned that a weaponised quantum computer could be used to break the encryption that protects sensitive government data and communications. Their analysis is that quantum computers will threaten data and privacy to the extent that this will force the largest technology upgrade cycle in computer history. Indeed, the US government has already recognised this issue, and claims to be dealing with the threat. 

They are not alone. It is evident that several nation-states are spending billions of dollars, and deploying thousands of computer scientists, along with many other skilled technologists  - to build a quantum computer that will break all current forms of encryption.

The head of Britain’s MI6 spy agency Richard Moore says that “our adversaries are pouring money and ambition into mastering artificial intelligence, quantum computing and synthetic biology because they know…this will give them leverage.”

Quantum computing can create immense business benefits, and the social implications of quantum technologies are likely to be far-reaching. By decade’s end, practical quantum computing solutions could impact computing strategies across industries which will profoundly alter how we think of computing and, critically, how we secure our digital economy through cryptography.

The governments and commercial organisations that are responsible for securing sensitive data must not underestimate the threat of quantum computers - the science to support quantum computing is well-founded and quantum computers may be a single breakthrough away from cracking modern cryptography.

IBM:    American Scientist:      I-HLS:     VentureBeat:     Verdict:    CIGI

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