The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) says that in a matter of 20 years, our current cryptography systems will be outdated and easily cracked by quantum computers. This is a bit of a problem. As NIST mathematician Dustin Moody, who co-authored the report, notes, we need to start renovating the current cryptographic systems now, as it will take just as long (around 20 years) to get new algorithms selected, standardized, and implemented.
The world’s biggest computer companies have been focused on developing quantum computers for years. If developed, they would be millions of times faster than the supercomputers we have today (at least, in some regards). And recently, advancements in the quest to build one have been coming on amazingly fast.
In 2013, Google launched their quantum computer D-wave, which is said to be a staggering 100 million times faster than a conventional PC. This month, IBM opened access to their new quantum processor to the public via IBM Cloud. And things are really just getting started.
As Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director at IBM Research, notes, “Quantum computing is becoming a reality and it will extend computation far beyond what is imaginable with today’s computers.”
While the advancements in quantum computing are, without a doubt, milestones technologically speaking, these advancements require just as huge a leap in security systems. As NIST notes, the two go hand-in-hand.
To that end, the NIST is now working on new approaches to encryption to ensure they keep up with the advent of this new age and can withstand the power of quantum computers.
They have started initiatives to get stakeholders for a collaborative effort in developing new cryptographic approaches, as well as competitions much like that held for developing the SHA-3 hash algorithm.