Have you ever stopped to think about how much power you hold in your hand every day? Today’s smartphones are as powerful as the military computers from the 1970s, which were the size of an entire room. Now imagine if you had the power to essentially rewrite the laws of math and break codes much more easily, even surpassing the power of the late mathematician John Nash. This is the mysterious side of computing that we’ll be discussing here: quantum computing. What Is Quantum Computing?
Regular computers work using “bits,” which are tiny switches that are either “1” (on) or “0” (off). A single byte of data has 8 of these, and most computers process instructions made up of 8 bytes each somewhere around 3 to 5 billion times per second. That’s fast!
Computers have historically gotten faster by increasing that speed, and by increasing size of the memory. After all, bigger memory addressing also equals more speed. You may have heard of 32- vs. 64-bit operating systems – that was increasing the addressing size. Think of it like when we added area codes to phone numbers in order to create even more phone numbers. This and other advancements in computers made it necessary to make things small – nanometers small. Unfortunately, when you do that, physics starts to get weird. “Quantum” effects happen at that scale – hence, quantum computing.
“Quantum bits” or “qubits” basically take advantage of the aforementioned quantum effects and function like the 0/1 bits above, but they have a third state: “superposition.” Think of it like Schrodinger’s cat in the computing world – the qubit is both on and off at the same time. Since your state space is now three states instead of two, you’ve effectively increased the amount of data you’re holding by 50%, which is quite a big jump.
Moreover, there is a different quantum phenomenon: “entanglement.” This means you can have multiple “qubits” existing in a single quantum state and, depending on how they’re made, they are spookily connected across time and space. So, fiddling with one qubit actually causes things to happen to the other qubit. This also does some very scary physics that seems to break the limits on the speed of light, baffling physicists everywhere.
In 1994, Peter Shor, a mathematician, came up with a very clever idea that used this feature of “entanglement” to show that theoretically, you could do some things with math that shouldn’t be possible. It means that you can solve equations essentially by “cheating,” and measuring more things than you should be able to (essentially, measuring one entangled bit lets you measure another, without actually doing so, because of the spooky connection). Shor showed that you can essentially factor really big numbers without even trying, if you had access to real qubits. It’s complex – so much so that it even baffled Einstein, who described it as “spooky action at a distance.”
Encryption, which protects your bank account, power grid, and more, is basically based on impossibly big numbers and their factors. So “easily factoring things” is a problem for encryption. The NSA and others saw this and began making really big numbers (AES-256 bit encryption) to hopefully slow this down, even if someone were to get access to a quantum computer with sufficient qubits. IBM managed to build a quantum computer with real qubits in 2001, but their computer only had 7 qubits. Theoretically, it was impressive, but ultimately useless.
Fast forward to today when in 2019 Google claimed they have a quantum computer that is much bigger. If this is true, it means the world is drawing closer to factoring big numbers and breaking security. And while the NSA’s choice to do AES-256 will slow that process down, if we keep improving, then even that will fail.
While Q-Net Security uses AES-256, we change our keys constantly, which effectively makes us billions of times stronger than anyone else. Bottom line: even futuristic quantum computers, with their powers of spooky physics and breaking math in weird ways, cannot penetrate our hardsec devices. We are committed to protecting you, your infrastructure, and your data with post-quantum cryptography and a hardware-based true random number generator! Best of all, it’s easy to implement: just plug a Q-Box in to secure an end-point, register it, and you’re done – no patches or training required!
Contact Q-Net Security today at [email protected] to learn more or get started!