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Are quantum computers a threat to the world?

Many of you reading this blog would have heard about the word quantum computing by now. It is a buzzword which we are seeing quite a lot nowadays since companies like Google and IBM have claimed to have built quantum computers which are deemed to be extremely fast. Faster than anything we have seen so far. But like in the movie spiderman "With greater power comes greater responsibilities". Are we ready to live in a world of quantum computers? There is no easy answer to this. For the next few minutes, I will walk through a few basic things which may help you to come up with your perspective.

 

Hold on tight, getting a little mumbo jumbo

A Quantum computer is nothing but a computer that uses algebraic methods found in quantum mechanics for its computational activities. Ok now everything seems to be clear 😊 but what exactly is quantum mechanics. 

Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics that describes the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. To put it simply everything that we have seen so far since birth can be explained using this theory. The theory says that the universe is quantized. i.e. space or time is not continuous but discrete quantum units.

How does a quantum computer achieve quantum computing?

We all know the current computers (henceforth will be called 'classical' since that is the name humans give to anything that gets old 😊) uses bits for its computing purpose. By using bits, it means that at a single point in time the information is stored either in 0 or 1 state.

Now concerning quantum computers, information is stored in quantum states which are achieved by using quantum bits or qubits. Quantum states are something called superposition states wherein at a single point of time information can both be in 0 and 1 simultaneously.

Enough of mumbo jumbo

Feel your head is spinning. Maybe because it is in a quantum state now with a lot of processing happening simultaneously and quickly. The end product being nothing useful has come out so far 😊. Well, that is the case with the current quantum computers which IBM or Google has built. These are only in their labs and currently have a lot of errors which they hope to resolve in the next 10 years. Yeah, you heard it right quantum computers will not come to your doorstep in your immediate future.

Then why are cryptographers losing sleep over it?

Cryptographers have so far believed that they have built an unbreakable encryption mechanism using which all our modern computers and internet devices transfer data. This is true as of now since the current best-encrypted data will require classical computer trillions of years to break. But (here we go again 😊), quantum computers if built can break them in a matter of days. 

So why do they lose sleep, can't they build something unbreakable again right? The answer is that even if they built a new technique that is unbreakable, unless we stop the data exchange now a lot of sensitive data would already be in the wrong hands. 

How is that possible? Let's assume, a Pharma company stores its secret formula in a data vault protected by AES 256 (impenetrable using brute-force methods) and somehow the data is taken by an attacker maybe a competitor. This formula stays in encrypted form, hence unusable till a quantum computer is built. However once quantum computers are readily available the competitor can easily figure out the formula which leads to maybe a lot of financial/competitive repercussions for the pharma company. We can think of other similar scenarios as well such as a government secret like nuclear code or details that matter to national security getting into the wrong hands.

Now people dealing with these data will lose sleep over quantum computers 😊.

Why built a bad thing?

Quantum computers if available can solve a lot of things that are currently impossible for our "classical" computers.

Few important things being:

  1. Building a drug that can treat life-threatening diseases. Since using quantum computers, we can store data at a molecular level.
  2. Your machine learning models which take n number of days to execute can be executed in a few minutes. 
  3. Scientists can understand climate change and build a better world
How we can help?

iEDPS provides encryption algorithms that can be used to encrypt data. As I am writing this, we are actively trying to build a partnership with quantum source providers who can build quantum keys for encryption. In this way, your encrypted data becomes quantum safe. That means your data becomes unbreakable. I am excited to kick start this journey. Hoping to be of help to you, for more information on iEDPS kindly refer to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aidUrPnmoK4  and https://www.infosys.com/services/incubating-emerging-technologies/offerings/enterprise-data-privacy-suite.html

 

Fig: How iEDPS connects to quantum source and use it for encryption

Author: 

Sujith Joseph, iEDPS product Architect

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