Very soon, public key encryption methods will become obsolete. It won’t be long before quantum computers mature enough to easily crack the cipher keys used. Computers send encrypted messages for everything including internet banking, web browsing, shopping and email. Just think of all those credit card numbers, state secrets, medical records, you name it, travelling around the internet. This information is generally secure now because classical computers can’t easily solve the mathematical problems required to crack the encryption but a quantum computer of sufficient size could do it easily.
When quantum computers mature to the point where they can crack public key encryption, anything sent over the internet using that method will become readable. All you would need to do is intercept and copy the message and then access a quantum computer to decipher it. What’s more, decoding of previously intercepted messages would become possible! This may well lead to financial and or political instability for a period of time while banks, companies and governments scramble to replace the old message protocols with more secure alternatives.
More secure encryption methods are being worked on now and are collectively referred to as post-quantum cryptography. Lattice-based Cryptography is a one of the new protocols that looks like it could be a viable alternative. However, it will take a long time for all the world’s banks, governments, companies and e-commerce sites to make the switch given the current encryption methods are so entrenched and widespread . Unfortunately, anything sent and intercepted under the old encryption protocols is already at risk.
Quantum computers are excellent simulators because they can assess large quantities of data and spot patterns quickly. They will have massive benefits to humanity particularly in drug discovery, drug testing, material science, climate modelling, transportation optimisation, artificial intelligence, database searches, financial modelling and aeronautical simulation. Simulation of molecules, proteins, complex interactions or data will also be a big winner. It will take many years for the development of all the algorithms necessary to achieve these goals but when they are the advances are likely to be widespread and significant.
Quantum Computing is still in its early stages of development but other applications will evolve. Please share your thoughts on any areas you think may be impacted in the Comments section below.
Read more here about IBM’s encryption warning.
There is a great YouTube video here that explains how encryption works.
Post-quantum cryptography is described here.