Quantum Unicorns

By Adrian Lane

Apparently we are supposed to fear the supercomputer of the future. According to Computerworld, the clock is ticking on encryption. Yes, you guessed it, the mythical “quantum computer” technology is back in the news again, casting its shadow over encryption. It will make breaking encryption much, much easier.

“There has been tremendous progress in quantum computer technology during the last few years,” says Michele Mosca, deputy director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. “It’s a game changer”

And when they perfect it, the Playstation 37 will rock! Unfortunately it’s powered by leprechauns’s gold and Unicorn scat, so research efforts have been slowed by scarcity of resources. Seriously, I have been hearing this argument since I got into security 15 years ago. Back then we were hearing about how 3-DES was doomed when quantum technology appeared. It was, but that has more to do with Moore’s Law and infant encryption technologies than anything else. I think everybody gets that if we have computers that are a million times faster than what we have today Flash will run reasonably fast we’ll be able to break existing encryption technology. But how much data you encrypt today will have value in 20 years? Or more likely in 40 years? I am still willing to bet we’ll see 100” foldable carbon nanotube televisions or pools of algae performing simple arithmetic before quantum cryptography. And by that time, maybe all government laptops will have full disk encryption.

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quantum computers are not magic boxes you can feed encrypted data into and get meaningful responses out of. in order to break crypto they need quantum algorithms that actually perform better than their classical counterparts. shor’s algorithm may put a nail in the coffin RSA, but that’s only one type of encryption. most cryptosystems will not be affected by shor’s algorithm, and without other quantum algorithms for attacking the other types of encryption the rise of quantum computing will do little to harm the strength of contemporary cryptosystems.

By kurt wismer

It’s the old ‘edge of the table’ syndrom that never fails to strike. Even renowned scientists keep predicting game changers every couple of years.
Back when I started, it was AI that was ‘nearly ready’ to change the game, [un-]fortunatly we’re still doing all the I and all A is put in our food.

By mokum von Amsterdam

Excellent points - and nicely put.

Security technologies are all about raising the bar to the level that exceeds the practical costs and ROI of the attack: both are not static, and the evolution of technology on both sides will evolve accordingly.

That is, until Dr Who joins up with the bad guys :-)

By Mark Bower

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