Cyber security has become a very popular topic is the past few years. With many organizations taking drastic measures to make sure their networks and systems are secured from breaches. One of the most reliable way to secure information being transmitted from one point to the next has been encryption. The reason it has been so successful and used by almost all organizations is computers today can not break the key and be able to read the information being transmitted. But all of that could be a thing of the past leading cyber security officials to scramble to find a solution. What is causing these officials to panic? The answer is the advancement in quantum computers.
What is quantum computers? Quantum computers are machines that harness and control the phenomena of the quantum world, the world of atoms, electrons, photons and nature’s other building blocks, to process information in a radically different way than presentday computers. Quantum computers are computers that no longer sees binary digits as a 0 or 1, like a traditional computer does, it sees these binary digits as quantum bit (qubit). A quantum bit is can hold the value of a 0 or 1 at the same time. What this means is that qubit has the ability to read the binary code at record speed because it can read the long binary codes as both a 0 and a 1 at the same time, unlike a traditional computer. The power of a quantum computer increases exponentially with the number of qubits. Rather than doing computations sequentially as traditional computers do, quantum computers can solve problems by laying out all of the possibilities simultaneously and measuring the results. By manipulating a large collection of quantum bits, a quantum computer can in a special way explore the countless configurations of 0s and 1s simultaneously.
What does this mean in terms of cyber security? One unintended consequence of quantum computation is breaking some of the cryptographic tools currently underpinning cybersecurity. When the cryptographic foundations upon which a cyber system is built are fundamentally broken, unless a fail-over replacement (which generally takes years to develop) is in place, the system will crumble with no quick fixes. Because of quantum computing, there’s a one-in-seven chance that fundamental public-key cryptography tools used today will be broken by 2026 and by 2031, that chance jumps to 50 percent.
One solution is quantum cryptography which capitalizes on the quantum phenomena to protect private information in ways that even a quantum computer cannot crack. It is based on the law of quantum mechanics that says that observing quantum data necessarily disturbs them. What this means that any eavesdropping on a quantum transmission used for key establishment can be instantly detected before any data can possibly be compromised. Such quantum key distribution is already commercially available and has been used to protect important bank transfers and other communications. There are also forms of postquantum cryptography, which are not themselves based on quantum techniques. Like today’s public key methods, they use conventional technologies and rely on assumptions about the infeasibility of some mathematical computations; however, they are secure against all currently known forms of quantum or conventional cryptanalytic attacks.
The upside to this is that right now quantum computers is still some years in the future but with breakthroughs happening all the time that future may not be as far off. More money today is being spent on quantum research and development and not on security in a quantum computing world. More attention needs to be paid on securing information when quantum computers do become the normal standard. Here’s to hoping that this great technology leads to great advancements and opens teh world up to new possibilities but also helps in keeping all of are valuable information safe and secure.