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The Clock Is Ticking on Encryption


Michele Mosca

Michele Mosca

University of Waterloo

Cracking encrypted messages can take a very long time using existing technology. However, researchers warn that quantum computers eventually could make cracking encrypted messages much easier.

Today, most enterprises use the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which uses keys that are either 128 bits or 256 bits long, and have never been broken. The weakness of AES is that the sender has to get the key to the receiver, and if that key is intercepted, transmissions become open to anyone.

Asymmetric algorithms, such as RSA, solve this problem by using a public key for encryption but a private key for decryption. RSA is based on the difficulty of factoring very large numbers, from which two keys are derived.

However, a quantum computer should be able to use the properties of quantum mechanics to probe for patterns within a huge number without having to examine every digit in that number, says Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo's Michele Mosca. Although Mosca says it may be a while before quantum computing threatens today's encryption systems, "we need to start figuring out what alternatives to deploy since it takes many years to change the infrastructure."

From Computerworld
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Abstracts Copyright © 2011 Information Inc. External Link, Bethesda, Maryland, USA


 

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