Quantum Computing Changes the Equation Completely

The Scramble for Post-Quantum Cryptography

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+  “Today’s encryption methods are excellent, but we are reaching an inflection point,” says Chris Peikert, an associate professor in the Department of Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. “The introduction of quantum computing changes the equation completely. In principle, these devices could break any reasonably-sized public key.”

History has demonstrated that where there are people, there are secrets. From elaborately coded messages on paper to today’s sophisticated cryptographic algorithms, a desire to maintain privacy has persisted. Of course, as technology has advanced, the ability to cipher messages but also crack the codes has grown.


+  Such an event would wreak havoc. “It would affect nearly everything we do with computers,” says Dustin Moody, a mathematician whose focus at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) includes computer security. Within this scenario, he says, computing subsystems, virtual private networks (VPNs), and digital signatures would no longer be secure. As a result, personal data, corporate records, intellectual property, and online transactions would all be at risk.

+  A simple but disturbing truth is at the center of this concern. “A quantum computer could conceivably crack today’s public-key encryption algorithms,” Lyubashevsky explains.

+  Although current quantum machines do not yet have the power or programming to achieve this feat, they are advancing rapidly. It is estimated that once these machines reach the threshold of approximately 10 million physical qubits (a few thousand logical qubits), they will be capable of breaking current public-key encryption methods.

Source:  Communications of the ACM.  Samuel Greengard,  The Scramble for Post-Quantum Cryptography…

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