The world is at the threshold of a Quantum Revolution. Unlike in the past, perhaps for the first time in history, we have a case where all world major nations and corporations are actively pursuing one technology and pouring in billions of dollars.
Google announced crossing the Quantum Supremacy Threshold of 53 Qubits. This essentially means that a Quantum Computer (QC) of 53 Qubits can perform some operations faster than the most advanced supercomputers today. In the last one year, the performance of quantum computers has gone up by 5-7 times which has made even the biggest skeptics eat their words. Recently, Rigetti has announced it will release a 128 Qubit QC this year. They have already released a fab lab designed for speedy creation of better quantum circuits and a quantum computing cloud service that provides early hands-on experience with writing and testing software.
The potential benefits of quantum computing, from advances in cancer research, gene studies to unlocking the mysteries of the universe, are limitless. But that same computing power can be used to unlock different kinds of secrets—from one’s personal financial or health records to corporate research projects and classified government intelligence.
The greatest impact of the Quantum Revolution will be felt on Cryptography. A sufficiently large QC running existing Shor’s algorithm can crack an RSA or Diffie Hellman system of encoding in seconds as opposed to millions of years by brute force method today.
Symmetric key systems such as Advanced Encryption Standard, Triple Data Encryption Algorithm, etc. which are used for end to end bulk encryptors are more resilient but even these can be cracked in relatively quicker time frames by running Grover’s Algorithm on a Quantum Computer. Even these systems use Diffie Hellman for key exchange which will become completely insecure. The only solution against this is to evolve a new breed of Post Quantum cryptographic systems resilient to algorithmic simulations. Another aspect is that no matter what encryption system you use, its security is limited by the security of its key.
Even in the present, the threat is very real as an adversary can easily tap an optical fiber link and store the data for cracking later when QC resources become available in 12 to 18 months. Thus, forward security is very important today and window (time of implementing Quantum safe security solutions and the arrival of powerful enough QCs) is shrinking as we read this note.
With our increasing dependence on digital, it is becoming increasingly lucrative to obtain the key and loss of keys by treason also becomes a distinct possibility. The only technological solution today is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) which guarantees complete secrecy of the key and facilitates the rapid change of keys, as frequent as one per minute, to frustrate any attempts at hacking. QKD solution makes QC toothless as an exploit kit in the hands-on hackers.