Quantum Computing’s Impact on Cyber Security

With more and more technological advancements every day, our vision of quantum computing is turning more into a reality than a theory. Companies like IBM and Microsoft are accelerating forward and becoming closer than ever to build the first fully functioning quantum computer. Seemingly on the edge of an almost quantum revolution, it’s important to ask questions about how integral parts of our lives like cyber security will be affected by this change.

First, let’s understand what quantum computing is. Comparing it to modern computing, which relies on discrete values of a bit being either a 0 or a 1, quantum computing would allow both of these possibilities to exist simultaneously in something called qubits, and these values only truly form when they are observed. This allows quantum computers to handle operations and equations at speeds that are exponentially higher than what we are used to in modern computers and their energy costs are far less.

How does this effect today’s security? Many of today’s security systems rely on cryptography, this is because normal computers struggle at factoring large numbers. This means that cryptography based on factoring numbers would be a safe bet against our technology today, but with the introduction of quantum computing, these practices would be useless. This isn’t the end of cryptography though because there are some approaches in use today that will be safe against the power of a quantum computer. That doesn’t mean that important companies and governments are using them though, and if quantum computing is to take off faster than anticipated they could run into some trouble. Other security strategies that are used today, like two-factor authentication, will still be just as effective after the introduction of quantum computing, due to multiple steps being taken by the person to log into a system.

Tomorrow’s security will be something almost unfathomable with quantum-based security implementations. Techniques like theoretically unbreakable cryptography, encrypting data to stop working if anyone attempts to uncover them and guaranteeing a safe passage to send data no matter what attacks are being used against it can all be potentially achieved with quantum computing. It’s not all positive though because with the power to develop secure techniques comes the power to exploit older strategies. An almost quantum arms race has begun between intelligence agencies and this is because the first agency to gain access to quantum computing power will have an incredible edge over all other counties.

Although quantum computers may never be a household item, their impact in the world will definitely be historical. While many of their advancements will benefit society and the internet infrastructure as we know it, it is still important to make sure what the world is ready for a step this large.

-Jeremy McGrath