Feb 19 2019

The Future of Encryption in the Quantum Realm

The flagship AES-256 bit encryption would take an inordinate amount of time to brute force hack. That makes it very secure and one of the reasons it is used in web security, banking, the Department of Defense and, of course, Ransomware. It would simply take too much computing power and too much time to be advantageous to even attempt. While there are many hacking methods to speed up the process of breaking this encryption, such as rainbow tables and dictionary attacks, the attempts are made one at a time. This is the limitation of conventional computers.

Theoretically, a Quantum Computer could break AES-256, and most other cryptography algorithms, in minutes.  While there is much debate as to how long either will take – it’s safer to say that as quantum computers become a reality – we will have to make adjustments to our cryptographic system and infrastructure when that time comes.

A normal computer operates in binary mode: “0” or “1”, known as a “bit”. It’s always a 0 or 1 until we change it. What makes a quantum computer different than a normal computer is that the former operates in “0” or “1” or both – this is known as a “qubit” – a probability of possible outcomes until we measure it. Quantum computers use Quantum-Mechanical Phenomena such as Superposition and Entanglement. There are many challenges facing quantum computers becoming mainstream but companies such as Google, IBM, and Microsoft, among others, are leading the charge with academia being an integral component of the effort.

We know that a conventional computer using brute force methods will have to try every possible combination of bits in sequence before finding the correct password. This is time consuming even with today’s supercomputers. A quantum computer, theoretically, would try every combination simultaneously and find the correct answer instantly. We would then use methods, such as Grover’s Algorithm, to strip away the erroneous data to leave us with the one ‘hacked’ password. Quantum computers could also implement Shor’s Algorithm effectively rendering current cryptographic strength in half and substantially reducing the time it takes to break the encryption.

While we may see the current encryption systems become unusable in the near future, quantum computers offer a solution as well; completely random and unbreakable one time key distribution – the infamous ‘One Time Pad’ in the quantum realm. The benefit from this proposed cryptography is that any interception, observation, or measure of the key destroys the key.  Not only will a hacker not be able to crack the code; merely looking at it renders it unusable – you will know someone is attempting to hack you before you are hacked.

Want to learn more and play with an actual Quantum Computer? Visit IBM’s Quantum Experience here: https://quantumexperience.ng.bluemix.net/qx/experience

You can also check out PBS’s Infinite Series for well-produced videos on cryptology and quantum computing. Here are a few to get your feet wet.

The Mathematics Behind Quantum Computershttps://www.pbs.org/video/the-mathematics-of-quantum-computers-kiuchg/

How to Break Cryptography: https://www.pbs.org/video/how-to-break-cryptography-ahby1s/

Hacking at Quantum Speed with Shor’s Algorithm https://www.pbs.org/video/hacking-at-quantum-speed-with-shors-algorithm-8jrjkq/: