Quantum power is nevertheless a fact, a certainty, and an inevitability, still years away from the mainstream. On data that is coded according to the binary system, conventional, old-fashioned digital computers operate. The condition of any single bit may only be 0 or 1. in binary. The choices are pretty binary, quite literally. Only in one of two places can any single computing bit reside. Quantum computers, now emerging as the next generation of computation, operate on data that comes in the form of qubits or quantum bits.
Quantum goes beyond the binary by a qubit’s capacity to live in more than one of two places. A qubit, called a superposition, may represent a quantum state of two or more values simultaneously. Depending on the sense in which it is presented, a qubit’s superposition can also be distinguished, so we get more computing power in the same space in simple terms.
But quantum states are fragile, and quantum errors are notoriously difficult to quantify, so we must treat this new force respectfully. How does this new thrust of computational power offer us new power levels to examine IT systems for security vulnerabilities at a more granular level and secure us through more complex quantum cryptography layers?
Quantum computing is a game-changing technology for cybersecurity, thanks to the inherent pace boost it provides to solve complex mathematical issues. Trend Micro Vice President of Security Research Rik Ferguson states that conventional computing is essential for “brute-forcing” mathematical problems instead of quantum before it arrives at a solution. The more complicated the query, the slower the response arrives.
Traditional cryptography relies on the fact that it is mathematically complex to factor in large prime numbers, and it takes a long time for hackers to try to brute-force an answer. This kind of factorization is where quantum computers shine, theoretically reducing the time from billions of years to a matter of seconds to solve problems. We can now use the power to create more complex layers of security,’ says Mr. Ferguson.
But is quantum computing still capable of arming hackers? “Obviously yes,” he says. What we need to note is that, in one way or another, the majority of attacks in today’s threat environment target the consumer, and social engineering plays as much, if not more excellent, role than technological expertise. As long as a person in improper circumstances can be convinced to part with a key, all the world’s cryptography will not help, quantum or not.
Perhaps the most convincing short-term impact of quantum is the position of “distribution” security features that use quantum effects, giving us a powerful mechanism for exchanging cryptographic keys with a high degree of implied security between remote parties.
According to IBM computer scientist Leigh Chase, we should look more generally at the types of data transformation operations we may perform in quantum computers to exploit effects that are not present in IT’s the classical world. Products such as superposition and entanglement give advantages in information-processing, many of which can be significantly extended to cryptography, such as the enhanced generation of random numbers.
But when we strive to build phrases such as randomness of superposition entanglement into the layperson’s technology comprehension, do we now throw out all our current cryptosystems favouring quantum? For now, IBM’s stance is to consider quantum-safe cryptography, which involves or exploits quantum effects only for some of them.
Trust and Responsibility
Although money is more generally about quantum power that keeps us safer, we should continually remind ourselves that there is no guarantee of accountability for safe use. FireEye senior threat analyst Parnian Najafi acknowledges that specific threats to current cryptography are raised by quantum computers running known as the Shor algorithm.
Except for brute-force attacks, specific encryption algorithms are considered to be unbreakable. Although attacks by brute force may be complex for classical computers, it would be easy for quantum computers to make them susceptible to such attacks, says Ms Najafi.
Yet she admits that, shortly, hacktivists and cybercriminals are unlikely to be able to afford quantum computers. Nonetheless, nation-states do have the power to afford and maintain them. ‘Current quantum computers need the isolation of nearly absolute zero temperature from interference such as radio waves and noise, so qubits preserve their mechanical quantum state. For non-national state actors, all these conditions make it complicated and costly,” she says.”
Defence and Safety
So is a quantum catastrophe on the horizon, and would a primary goal be cryptocurrencies? There are currently underway attempts to render cryptocurrency safer, including the quantum-resistant ledger, as the research of a security company FireEye highlights. It would seem then that we are also working to defend against its misuse as quickly as we create quantum strength.
Security strategist Ramses Gallego at Symantec agrees. He points out that a computer that could efficiently and efficiently run Shor’s algorithm, the most complicated quantum algorithm known, could allow us to factorize large prime numbers and do things that we can not even imagine today.
However, such great computational ability will present a significant challenge for cryptography in the future as cybercriminals will be able to target highly complex quantum attack organizations. Security researchers are currently designing quantum-resistant algorithms to pre-empt this, but we have yet to see how quantum computing in the future can genuinely revolutionize cryptography.
Despite human weaknesses, could we use quantum computing to create a completely hacking-resistant, unbreakable computer? Gemalto’s director of product management, Joe Pindar, is optimistic.
What is remarkable about random numbers from quantum computing and why Swiss banks and governments use their early prototypes is that they can build a ‘one-time pad.’ This is a particular form of the key for encryption that is virtually unbreakable. Interestingly, one-time pads were first used in World War One and are made exceptionally safe by being used for a single message just once, so codebreaking methods don’t work, he says.
Mr Pindar gives some reassurance about the possible abuse of quantum computing. He says that while most of the encryption algorithms currently used on the internet would shift, it is not true that quantum breaks all encryption. “Encryption systems, such as legal documents, that are used to secure data stored in database records and archives, use a different technique that quantum computing has so far been unable to break,” he says.