Editorial Feature

Quantum Computing and Encryption

Quantum Computing, encryption

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Many organizations, including tech giants Google and IBM, are working to create what could be the next massive shift in computer technology – a quantum computer.

Quantum computing uses a peculiar quality of subatomic particles: the capacity to have greater than one state at any given time. As a result of the unique nature of the smallest particles, quantum computing operations could be performed much faster and require less energy than traditional, or classical, computers.

At its most basic, classical computing is based on a bit – a solitary piece of data that can appear as one of two states: - 1 or 0. While the bit has served us well for decades, classical computing is limited by its binary nature.

In quantum computing, quantum bits, or 'qubits', are based on subatomic particles that can store much more information than just 1 or 0. This is because these particles can exist as a particle, a wave or a particle and a wave; a concept known as ’superposition’.

Because of superposition, a qubit can be a 0 and 1 at the same time, which allows for the performing of two equations at the same time. Also, two qubits could perform four equations simultaneously, three qubits could perform eight operations, and so on.

Quantum computing theory is based on another principle known as entanglement, which says qubits in a superposition can be linked to one another where the state of one (e.g. a ‘1’ or a ‘0’) is dependent upon the state of the other.

The Promise of Quantum Computing

Quantum computers work on very different principles than classical computers, which would give them unique processing power to solve particularly thorny computational challenges.

For instance, scientists are interested in the possibility of using quantum computers to simulate intricate chemical reactions, something today's supercomputers aren’t able to handle. In July 2016, Google said its engineers used a quantum device to replicate a hydrogen molecule for the first time. IBM subsequently announced it managed to simulate the behavior of even more intricate molecules.

Ultimately, scientists may be capable of using quantum computer models to design completely new molecules for use in medicine. One major goal for quantum chemists is to simulate the Haber-Bosch process - a method of artificially generating ammonia that is still fairly inefficient. Scientists have said they want to use quantum mechanics to work out what’s happening inside that reaction and discover new ways to make the chemical sequence more efficient.

Quantum computers would also be well-positioned for solving highly-complex mathematical challenges, such as finding very large prime numbers. Because prime numbers are so essential for cryptography, experts say quantum computers would be capable of cracking many cybersecurity systems that we depend on to keep our online data secure. Due to these risks, scientists are currently attempting to develop technology that is immune to quantum hacking, possibly through quantum-based cryptographic systems.

Quantum Encryption Keeping Pace

A team of researchers recently announced a development in quantum encryption technology that is capable of delivering megabit-per-second data transmission rates, a significant advancement on the previous hundred kilobits-per second rate.

The encryption technology behind this announcement is known as quantum key distribution (QKD). QKD uses particle of light to store data as qubits. These qubits can then be sent over a non-secure channel to a sender and a receiver to function as an encryption key. Because of quantum indeterminacy, which says measuring a particle affects its state, the sender and receiver would know if a hacker had tried to look at their encryption key.

While it's probably going to require some time to bubble up from the research stage and become a useful tool, QKD technology and the latest breakthrough increases the odds of cybersecurity staying a step ahead of hacking technology.

As quantum computing becomes available, it increases the odds of current forms of encryption becoming obsolete. Clearly, the development of QKD is crucial and the recent announcement is good news for anyone worried about the current and future states of cybersecurity.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Brett Smith

Written by

Brett Smith

Brett Smith is an American freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Buffalo State College and has 8 years of experience working in a professional laboratory.

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