A quantum computer at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center.
Credit: Connie Zhou for IBM
Topics: Computer Science, Cryptography, Cybersecurity, Quantum Computer
A team of researchers in China has unveiled a technique that — theoretically — could crack the most commonly used types of digital privacy using a rudimentary quantum computer.
The technique worked in a small-scale demonstration, the researchers report, but other experts are skeptical that the procedure could scale up to beat ordinary computers at the task. Still, they Are quantum computers about to break online privacy. Davide Castelvecchi, Naturewarn that the paper, posted late last month on the arXiv repository1, is a reminder of the vulnerability of online privacy.
Quantum computers are known to be a potential threat to current encryption systems. However, the technology is still in its infancy, and researchers typically estimate that it will be many years until it can be faster than ordinary computers at cracking cryptographic keys.
Researchers realized in the 1990s that quantum computers could exploit peculiarities of physics to perform tasks that seem to be beyond the reach of ‘classical’ computers. Peter Shor, a mathematician now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, showed in 19942 how to apply the phenomena of quantum superposition and interference to factoring integer numbers into primes — the integers that cannot be further divided without a remainder.
Are quantum computers about to break online privacy? Davide Castelvecchi, Nature