Quantum computers are mainly meant for storing and processing quantum information. These computers are different from digital electronic computers based on transistor technology. When compared to binary or classical computers, quantum computers are significantly faster and use less energy to solve numerous problems. An 8-qubit quantum computer can simultaneously represent every number from 0 to 255 but an 8-bit classical computer can only represent a single number from 0 to 255. The solution is based on basic principles of quantum mechanics: A qubit, short for a quantum bit, can represent 0 or 1—or it can have both values simultaneously—whereas a binary unit, or bit, in classical computing can only carry a value of either 0 or 1. In these computers, calculations are done using qubits that can represent 0 and 1 at the same.
A quantum computer determines the prime factors of big numbers in a matter of days as opposed to billions of years using a traditional transistor-based computer. Prime factorization serves as the basis for a large portion of our current infrastructure for encryption and information security, therefore this was a significant advancement.
The power of quantum computers increases exponentially in proportion to qubits. Quantum computing has a huge impact in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, molecular modelling, drug development, financial modelling, weather forecasting, traffic optimization, and supply chain logistics. Apart from these applications, there are certain threats of quantum computers to the field of cybersecurity. Quantum computers will be able to smash through the public-key encryption standards widely relied on today due to their exponentially higher processing power. According to the World Economic Forum’s recent report, quantum computing is one of the top five threats to cybersecurity.
Basics of Encryption
The best way to handle security attacks is to use the concept of encryption. Encryption is the process of converting something that is in a readable format to an unreadable format. Decryption is exactly the opposite of the process of encryption. It involves the conversion of an unreadable format to a readable format. Encryption is usually implemented at the sender side and Decryption is implemented at the receiver side of the transmission. The different types of encryptions are symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetric encryption uses single key-based encryption. In this encryption, the same key is used for both encryption and decryption. Asymmetric encryption uses 2 key-based encryption which is based on public key infrastructure. It uses public keys and private keys for encryption and decryption. Public keys are shared among communicating parties whereas private keys are kept secret. Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is used to implement symmetric encryption. The Diffie-Hellman key agreement, Rivest Shamir Adleman (RSA), Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC), El Gamal, and Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA) are used to implement asymmetric encryption.
How Quantum Computers Can Break Encryption?
The advantage of the quantum computer is that we can perform calculations on multiple states at the same time, which leads to exponential speedup of quantum algorithms. Quantum computers will be able to solve issues that are far beyond complicated for traditional computers to figure out. This involves deciphering the algorithms underlying the encryption keys that safeguard our data. Therefore, there is talk of quantum computing being used to break encryption and “hack the internet”. Quantum computers will be able to solve mathematical problems faster and more accurately than modern digital computers. Quantum computers might also pose trouble for modern internet security by being able to crack the algorithms behind data protection. It is predicted that Quantum computers in the future will be cracking calculations that would take a standard digital computer year of time. Scientists have announced in their development that a powerful quantum computer in the world will be 100 trillion times faster than the fastest supercomputer in the world. This technology is expected to totally transform the way in which we store data, process information, and develop technologies. The extreme problem-solving ability of quantum computing also poses a large threat to the way that world data is kept safe and secured. One of the most widely used encryption mechanisms on the internet is called RSA. In RSA encryption the locking key is a very large number that anyone can use to encrypt their message. The encryption works on using prime numbers. These are the numbers divisible by 1 and themselves. So, 3,5,23,739,2441 are some of the examples of prime numbers. Part of the RSA encryption mechanism requires that two prime numbers much bigger than the one listed above need to be multiplied together. The prime numbers used in RSA encryption are typically 100 or even 1000 digits long. The concept of prime number factorization is also used in the RSA algorithm. The digital computer will take billions of years to solve this problem giving an indication that the encryption is functionally unbreakable with modern technology. Quantum computers on the other hand could be designed to tackle these prime number factorization problems exceptionally quickly. Rather than billions of years, it might only take a few hours or less for a quantum computer to crack an RSA code. This is a significant threat to the people concerned about security. When a quantum computer like this becomes available in the market the world could suffer the broadest and deepest data breach in history. Today we are exploring the world in which quantum computers could overcome the way our sensitive data is kept secure.
Security in the Quantum Computing Age
The concept of quantum mechanics and quantum computers can be used to solve the security issues that were discussed till now. One of the major approaches that are being explored to solve the problem is named quantum key distribution (QKD) which is basically using the power of quantum as a shield against the power of quantum. QKD provides a new level of security by leveraging encryption keys to allocate in different places for exchange and sending files in seconds. QKD is the most secured form of information sharing because it leverages instant threat protection and zero trust architecture to notify keys when there is a threat detected backed by the laws of Quantum Mechanics and provides absolute security for online activities. In QKD the information is encoded on a single photon and by using this the quantum mechanical properties are used to provide security. By using this concept, we can detect the happening of eavesdropping during the transmission. When the eavesdropper tries to read the photon the quantum energy associated with the photon will be changed in a larger way. This will be detected at the receiver end as an error.
Security of computing systems and digital data is of utmost importance. Any breach in security of important systems will lead to huge losses. The current digital systems are secured using methodologies like encryption and decryption using these currently available algorithms. These methodologies are sufficient to some extent to secure the currently available digital computing systems. Once quantum computers come into the scene, the currently available security systems and methodologies will no longer be sufficient to withstand the attacks directed by quantum computers. The exponentially high processing power of quantum computers and usage of quantum algorithms can easily breach the current security systems. One of the important methods to fight the threat has been discussed in this article. More and more research are happening in this space to devise different methods to fight the potential threats before quantum computing is widely used across various domains.
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How can Cybersecurity benefit from the usage of quantum computing?
Here are some ways that qubits might alter the cybersecurity landscape. Quantum computing has the potential to make public key RSA methods with 64, 128, or 256 bits obsolete in the future by enabling malevolent actors to swiftly decrypt keys. However, the same idea would let businesses create impenetrable defences.
Why does Quantum computing pose a security risk?
A quantum computer can completely destroy public-key cryptography techniques and reduce the strength of symmetric key and hashing algorithms by half. “We need stronger encryption techniques with longer keys or larger digests in the case of symmetric and hashing algorithms.