Quantum Computing Could Spell Big Trouble for Cyber-Security

Quantum computers will be able to break the code of modern cryptography, with the ability to guess and solve encoded data in large combinations of numbers – instantaneously.

Researchers are making rapid strides in harnessing the power of quantum mechanics, in recent times. Quantum mechanics is now being used to craft and create a new generation of super-computers that can crack and solve the most complex scientific puzzles known to man, as well as having the means to unlock every digital vault in the world.

Quantum Computers

These computers will be able to perform computations that takes conventional computers millions of years to process, in seconds. They will further the means to better weather forecasting, logical planning, search for habitable earth-like planets, financial analysis and important heath-drug discoveries.

Alarmingly, they will also be able to hack and compromise every bank record, private correspondence and password, in every computer in the world. This is because modern cryptography which is based on encoding data in large combinations of numbers, can be solved easily by quantum computers which will guess these large clusters of numbers, in a flash.

Quantum computer > Modern computers

A normal computer has information represented in bits or binary digits, essentially 0 or 1. Since these are only two values, long sequences of 0s and 1s are necessary to form a cluster and denote a number or do a calculation. A quantum bit (qubit) however, can hold the value of 0 or 1, as well as both values at the same time. A ‘superposition’ in other words, shown as “0+1”. Due to this, the power of a quantum computer increases rampantly with the number of qubits. Instead of doing computations sequentially (slowly) as normal computers do, quantum computers can solve problems by laying out every possibility simultaneously and then measuring the results.

It is akin to being able to open a combination lock by trying every possible number and sequence at the same time. A mind-blowing thought.

The mad scramble to build Quantum computers.

There are many companies trying to build Quantum computers, including IBM, Google and Microsoft. Startups, defense contractors and universities are also involved.

Most researchers stress that it is only a matter of when, not if quantum computing will be practical. Some estimate this will be a reality as early as five years from now, others say it’ll take another 20 years or so. IBM said in April that we’ve entered a ‘golden era of quantum-computing research’ and predicted the company will be the first to develop a practical quantum computer.

Canadian-based startup D-Wave already claims to have done it. Vern Brownell, the chief executive said that D-Wave Systems created the first scalable quantum computer with proven results and is now working on producing the best results possible for increasingly complex problems. He added that D-Wave is complementary to digital computers, a special-purpose resource designed for compatibility as well as certain classes of problems.

The potential havoc with Quantum computers.

Quite clearly, the most worrisome development will be in cryptography. Developing new standards for protecting data won’t be easy. The present RSA standards that are in common use each took five years to develop. Ralph Merkle, a pioneer of public-key cryptography, notes that the technology of public-key systems, because it is less well-known, will take longer to update than these — optimistically, 10 years. That is before worldwide implementation so all computer systems are protected.

Quantum computing has staggering potential to all of mankind. Equally, falling into the wrong hands couple spell trouble.