Is Quantum Computing Detrimental to People’s Secrecy?by Vivek Kumar November 7, 2020
The potential benefits of quantum computing are limitless, but it can also pose threats to privacy
Today, the world is at a momentous technological breakthrough. Be it artificial intelligence or robotics, advances in technology have transformed all walks of life and business. However, in all that technology has also paved the way for increased security risks around an individual’s privacy. While we are on the cusp of computer technology that is becoming smarter and faster, larger amounts of sensitive data are at risk. Many cybersecurity experts and analysts are now worried that the new type of computers, based on quantum physics, could cause disruption to modern cryptography. Such computers can unlock various sorts of secrets, including personal financial or health records, confidential research projects and classified government intelligence.
In a study, mathematician Peter Shor demonstrated that quantum computers can factor large numbers more efficiently than classical computers, thus effectively breaking the RSA cryptosystem, which is widely used on the Internet to transmit data securely.
There is no wonder that quantum computers are able to encode voluminous amounts of data into readable information that are not possible with classical computers in any time frame. But the encryption is a challenge in encoding the data as it transmits from one person to another.
Unlike conventional computers, quantum computers use the ability of quantum bits (qubits) to exist in multiple states at the same time. This allows them to perform extremely complex computations at unimaginable speeds and solve issues that are impossible with today’s most advanced supercomputers.
What is Cryptography and Why It Matters?
Cryptography refers to the practice of techniques to safeguard communication and an original piece of information in the presence of adversaries. Two main types of encryption are symmetric, wherein the same key is used to encrypt and decrypt the data. And asymmetric, also known as public-key, which is used for securely exchanging symmetric keys. To break an encrypted message, a conventional computer takes thousands of years. But with the evolution of quantum computing, this scenario has changed and we now required more powerful security solutions for encryption.
Quantum Leap Towards Mainstream Business
Quantum computers these days are moving out of research labs to mainstream business in quest of investment and applications. Businesses are now racing to quantum supremacy. In October last year, search engine Google announced a state-of-the-art quantum computer, named Sycamore, which was claimed to be the most powerful supercomputer in the world, solving a complex computation in 200 seconds. Besides this, Accenture Labs is also monitoring the quantum computing ecosystem in response to predicted demand for quantum services, collaborating with leading companies like 1Qbit, a Vancouver, Canada-based software company dedicated to building tools and software to solve computational challenges. Amazon, AT&T, Baidu, IBM and to name a few are already playing a key role in the quantum world.
Not only the private sector, but countries are also exploring the potential of quantum computing. For example, China in 2017 announced to open a National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences by 2020, for US$10 billion. In the same year, a joint, state-sponsored research project with Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, the University of Tokyo and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) shared a prototype quantum computer for public use over the internet. Besides these, more other countries are also investing in quantum computing.
In brief, a 2018 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report noted that quantum computers that exist today are not able to break any commonly used encryption methods. Despite this, there is a need for technological advancements before they will be able to cause interruption of the strong codes in widespread use around the internet.