On the Internet the current approach of using Public and Private key codes has worked effectively with silicon technology. This is not perfect but we are assured that the RSA approach provides security to our environments.
However what has worked is now under threat, with the emergence of Quantum computing. Quantum computers are more powerful than any platform that is available now and therefore have the ability to crack most public-key algorithms.
Today’s encryption methods that protect sensitive data will be easily broken by the sheer processing power grunt of this new technology.
I say “will” as this is still early days.
Breaking Moore’s Law
Since the early days of computing we have been living within the anticipated constraints of Moore’s Law. Which states that “processors will double in power every 18 months”, as such Moore predicted that this trend would continue.
The architecture of modern computers work by manipulating bits that exist in one of two states: a 0 or a 1. However quantum computers use the power of atoms to perform memory and processing tasks. This means that they are also not restricted to be being either 0 or 1.
Quantum computers are expected to calculate faster than current the architecture.
A Threat to Banking
All banks use Public key cryptography to perform secure money transfer and their Online Banking systems is conducted on the Internet using this encryption for securing websites access.
The security of public key cryptography has meant that hackers have to find other ways to get information. Once encrypted we are now assured that this is extremely difficult to crack and hence it is “secured”.
RSA works in the principle that it is difficult to breaking up a large number into its prime factors, which serve as its key.
Post quantum algorithms
Quantum computers are expected to be coming into vogue in the next few decades. However a recent article by AFR has speculated that there could be such a Quantum Computer within 5 years here in Australia.
The threat then is how to secure such devices which could decrypt what we consider to be “secure” data including bank records to email passwords. This would be tantamount to “wiki-leaks on steroids”.
We would then be entering what will be called the Post-quantum algorithm stage. By then we hope that there will be a new approach using (public-key algorithms) that will be secure against a quantum computer attack.
Just imagine the potential huge payout for the country or enterprise that is able to figure this out. Let’s hope that the good guys are the people that are the ‘first to walk’ on the post quantum (moon).
Apparently the emerging schemes are based on the mathematics of lattices which are multidimensional, repeating grids of points. Which sounds to me like a more complex Rubik’s cube or a multidimension maze.
Give me the Rubik’s Cube
Frankly, I struggled with the old Rubik’s cube (while my brother in law was annoyingly able to solve this within seconds). But in this case the stakes are exceedingly high and vast amounts of secret data and money is awaiting the puzzle being solved.
The sweet spot for Quantum computing is high-powered applications. This includes Biotech molecule simulation and data mining, which can be used for ‘good’. Unfortunately Quantum computing can also be used to crack codes.