Researchers have already developed ways to decrypt encryption algorithms more efficiently than ever by using quantum computers. This raises one urgent question: when will quantum computers be powerful enough to threaten our current cryptographic landscape?
What are quantum computers?
Contrary to a normal computer, which can operate on only two signals (zero and one), a quantum computer can leverage quantum mechanics to increase the space of its computation. This allows for solving problems much more efficiently and even faster than with supercomputers.
How does quantum computing affect modern cryptography?
The short answer is: some cryptographic algorithms can be efficiently broken using quantum computers. But is important to know that current quantum computers are not powerful enough to challenge modern cryptography in a reasonable time and will not be powerful enough in the upcoming years.
Quantum computers are efficient in asymmetric cryptography because it often relies on the factorization of very large numbers. This type of problem is hard to solve for traditional computers but can be significantly sped up by quantum computers, e.g., using the already existing Shor’s and Grover’s algorithm to tackle prime factorization and cryptographic hashing. On the other hand, quantum computers do not impact symmetric cryptography as much because it does not rely on the before mentioned methods.
That being said, if there is currently no real threat coming from quantum computing, why should I care?
Do not ignore the potential danger of quantum computing
Although quantum computers are no real threat right now, they might be in the future. They are rapidly evolving tech that will be further developed because they can provide huge benefits in a wide range of current problems. Looking at a timeline of 10 years or more, the threat of quantum computers will become more and more real. There is a lot of data today that needs to be stored for this amount of time or longer, e.g., health and government data. We also have systems that cannot easily change and need to be vastly improved to secure against quantum computers. Such systems would be big cargo ships, airplanes, cryptocurrency or space crafts.
Countermeasures to threats imposed by quantum computing
Don’t worry: there is already research done to develop quantum-resistant (or quantum-safe) algorithms (e.g., by NIST). The development of these algorithms is still ongoing, but encryption-breaking quantum computers are still in development too. Also, federal agencies like the German BSI (Federal Office for Information Security) are aware of the topic and work on adding quantum-resistant algorithms to their security requirements.
If you want to learn more about quantum computing and associated risks regarding cybersecurity, feel free to contact our expert team.