Quantum computers have appeared in science fiction novels and films for years but what actually is it and why are so many tech giants talking about it now? Modern computing technology has come far from the first computer and now quantum computers are no longer science fiction. What does the mean for modern technology – and more importantly, security?
Quantum computers are faster and more efficient than current computing approaches. In classical computers, bits can only exist in one of two states: a 1 or a 0. Quantum mechanics allows for a third state, a superposition of 0 and 1 where the bit is both 0 and 1 at the same time, meaning these quantum bits (qubits) can exist in multiple different combinations at once. If a computer consisted of four bits, for example, the computer can only exist in one of 16 states at a time, while a quantum computer could exist in all 16 at the same time. This fact indicates just how much faster a quantum computer could carry out processes.
Although large technology companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Intel are now building quantum computers prototypes, quantum computers will not be public for a time due to the security concerns that arise from the existence of near-instant computing. Passwords, for instance, could be compromised. Brute force hacking is a common technique for testing all possible outcomes until a match is found; with classical computers this is very time consuming but with a quantum computer that can test every outcome at the same time, it would be almost instantaneous.
The majority of research around quantum computers is about building quantum security and secure communication. Once security is assured then the computers will make their way to commercial market. At present there are two major theoretical security protocols attempting to provide secure communication which allow for tampering detection and secure transmission of information.
When quantum computing is fully realised there will be many exciting new approaches to communication technology, including:
While the future of quantum computing is an exciting field, commercial use of quantum computers is a long way off. As such, most companies will not need to worry about going quantum just yet.
If you enjoyed this briefing paper, check out our other digital resources which cover a wide range of topics, including quantum computing, social media, and 3D printing.
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Alexander Lee is an analyst developer on the Lancashire Cyber Foundry. Having recently graduated from Lancaster University with a master’s in Physics, Alexander has always enjoyed software development building multiple physics based simulations. During his degree he studied Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Information Processing sparking an interest in the future of quantum computing.
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