Experts have warned of the “quantum apocalypse,” a scenario in which quantum computers become a reality and render most forms of internet encryption obsolete.
Consider this: everything we do on the Internet today, from online shopping to banking, is encrypted. However, once a functional quantum computer has decrypted those keys, it has the potential to allow anyone who created it to empty bank accounts and bring national defence systems to a complete halt.
Yes, even bitcoin wallets will be emptied. Consider a future in which all encrypted secret files can suddenly be cracked open. Sounds like hell? It’s known as the “quantum apocalypse”.
Quantum computers, to put it in layman terms, work way different than computers that have been built in the 21st century. Hypothetically speaking, they will be hundreds of times faster than the machines we use today.
In this light, when faced with an extremely challenging task, say decrypting complex data, the computers we know of today would take a couple of years. On the flip side, a future quantum computer might be able to do it in a matter of seconds.
That said, Quantum computers could be the answer to a wide range of human issues. It, therefore, makes sense that the UK government is funding the National Quantum Computing Centre in Harwell, Oxfordshire, with the aim of transforming quantum computing research.
That sounds terrific, but like with anything, there’s a downside — Data Theft
Several countries, including the US, the UK, Russia, and China, are investing time and money to develop these super-fast quantum computers in order to gain a strategic advantage in the cyber-sphere.
Every day, vast volumes of encrypted data, including yours and mine, are collected and kept in data banks without our permission, ready to be decrypted when the data is needed and when quantum computers become strong enough.
Harri Owen, PostQuantum’s chief strategy officer, explains that as long as you’re on the internet, everything you do is encrypted. However, once a working quantum computer capable of breaking that encryption is created, it can instantly let whoever constructed it do whatever they want.
IBM Claims To Have Made Quantum Computing Progress.
A business based in the United Kingdom claims to have produced a quantum-computing breakthrough. Ilyas Khan from Quantinuum, a corporation based in Cambridge and Colorado agrees with this notion. “Quantum computers will render most existing encryption methods useless,” he believes. “They will jeopardize our way of life.”
Seriously? Quantum proofing is a thing? Why haven’t we heard anything else about it? The situation certainly doesn’t sound apocalyptic now!
“If we didn’t do something to combat it, bad things would happen — but we are,” says a Whitehall official who would like to keep his identity ambiguous.
Mitigation attempts are already in progress and have been in use for some years. In the United Kingdom, all government material classified as “top secret” is already “post-quantum,” which means it is encrypted with new forms of encryption that researchers believe will be quantum-proof.
IBM, Intel, Microsoft and of course Google, as well as more specialized firms like Post-Quantum and Quantinuum, are working on solutions. Most crucially, a post-quantum cryptography “beauty parade” is now taking place at the US National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), which is located just outside of Washington, DC.
The goal is to develop a standardized defence strategy to safeguard industry, government, education, and essential national infrastructure from the dangers of the quantum apocalypse.
However, there’s a catch: all of this is not going to be cheap.
Quantum computing is costly, time-consuming, and produces a lot of heat. To counteract this, a lot of capacity is needed. That makes one of the most pressing security issues of our day the development of quantum-safe algorithms.
Nevertheless, experts argue that the alternative, which is to do nothing, is simply not an option!