Imagine a world where secret encrypted files are suddenly opened, something known as “the quantum apocalypse.”
Simply put, quantum computers work completely differently than computers developed during the last century. And they could eventually become many, many times faster than current machines.
That means that faced with an incredibly complex and time-consuming problem, like trying to crack data, where there are multiple permutations running into the billions, it would take a normal computer many years to crack those ciphers, if ever. But a future quantum computer could theoretically do this in just seconds.
Such computers might be able to solve all kinds of problems for humanity… But there is also a dark side.
Quantum Apocalypse And Data Theft
Several countries, including the US, China, Russia, and the UK, are working hard and investing huge sums of money to develop these super-fast quantum computers in order to gain a strategic advantage in the cybersphere.
Every day, vast amounts of encrypted data—including yours and ours—is collected without our permission and stored in databanks, ready for the day when data thieves’ quantum computers are powerful enough to decipher them.
“Everything we do today is over the Internet,” says Harri Owen, chief strategy officer for PostQuantum. “From buying things online, banking transactions, social media interactions, everything we do is encrypted.”
“But once a functional quantum computer with the ability to break that encryption comes along… it can give whoever developed it the magic wand to wipe bank accounts, completely shut down government defense systems, and loot cryptocurrency wallets.” “, Add.
It’s a forecast echoed by Ilyas Khan, CEO of the Cambridge and Colorado-based company Quantinuum. “Quantum computers will make most existing encryption methods useless,” he says. “They are a threat to our way of life.”
That sounds completely apocalyptic, so why haven’t we heard more about it?
The answer is that if this were the case, precautions would be taken. In fact, in practice, mitigation efforts are already underway and have been for some years. In the UK, all government data classified as “top secret” is already “post-quantum”—that is, it uses new forms of encryption that researchers hope will be resistant to quantum computing.
Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Intel, and IBM are working on solutions, as well as more specialized companies like Quantinum and Post-Quantum.
Google’s Sundar Pichai with Sycamore, his quantum computer
More importantly, a post-quantum cryptography “parade” of sorts is currently taking place at the US National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) outside Washington DC. The goal is to establish a standardized defense strategy that will protect industry, government, academia, and critical national infrastructure against the dangers of the quantum apocalypse.
All this, of course, will not be cheap.
Quantum computing is expensive, laborious, and generates large amounts of heat.
Likewise, the development of secure quantum algorithms is one of the main security challenges of our time.
But experts say the alternative — doing nothing — is simply not an option.