Google and IBM have announced a partnership with Japan, as world powers jostle for the top spot in the quantum computer arena.
The 2020s is to quantum computing what the 1950s was to nuclear weapons development. While it’s not nearly as potentially deadly, quantum computing is the new arms race, and the Quantum Racers are off and running at full speed.
While most pundits and physicists predict that commercially scalable quantum computers won’t be available for the next decade, there’s a reason you should be paying very close attention to their development – cyber security.
Once quantum computers are available, all they need to do is run a certain algorithm, and just about every encryption method known to man is toast.
Why the US and Japan are Joining Quantum Forces
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” – that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Calling the US and China enemies might be a tad bit of a stretch, but considering its recent spy balloon shenanigans, it might be best to try to stay on par with the technology the Eastern giant is developing.
As part of this endeavor, both IBM and Google have partnered with Japan to contribute a combined $150 million toward a tri-country partnership, which constitutes a joint quantum computing initiative between Japan and America.
With China recently announcing (thought it hasn’t been independently verified or peer-reviewed) that it had:
A) Broken a low-level RSA encryption
B) Used satellites to established an secure link between two ground stations separated by more than 1,000 kilometers and
C) Placed a call using a quantum computer,
It’s probably long past the time when US-based institutions started ramping up their quantum computing research.
So far, Stateside, IBM and Google are the biggest contenders, and it makes sense that they’d partner with Japan, where Fujitsu is doing some great experiments in both developing quantum computers, but more importantly, perhaps, in penetration testing cybersecurity defenses against them.
Why Your Business Should Care About Quantum Computing
It’s OK if you’re reading this thinking, ‘I’ve heard of quantum computers, IBM and Google are always talking about it – but is it REALLY a threat to me SMB’s cybersecurity?'
That’s a valid question, and the short answer is: nope, you’re good! The long answer is: you should be very, very worried if you want to run your business longer than the next few years.
Here’s quantum computing explained in very simple terms: classical computers use mathematics to run (1s and 0s). Think of them like a complex calculator.
Quantum computers use physics. Think of them like Schrodinger’s Cat.
In more detail: Quantum computers uses particles and quantum bits (qubits) allow these particles to exist in more than one state (such as 1s and 0s) at the same time.
The benefit of this is that qubits can store huge amounts of data and make insanely complex calculations in the fraction of time a classical computer takes.
And, running the right algorithm (for the interested, it’s Peter Shor’s algorithm), a sufficiently strong and stable quantum computer could literally break any encryption method we currently have. As an example, it could break RSA-2048: something that would take classical computers literally millions of years to break.
Right now, quantum computers are way too noisy, though, and the noise changes the state of the qubit, meaning that it changes how the qubit is reacting, and impacting the machine’s overall stability.
But as the US National Institute of Standards and Technology has already warned both public and private sector bodies, cyber criminals are knowingly stealing and storing data, waiting for the day when they can get their hands on one of these quantum beauties (if you haven’t Google image searched for quantum computers, do – they’re stunning).
Until then, there's plenty you can do to protect your business, from investing in VPNs to making sure employees are using password managers on the regular.