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How Quantum Computing Could ­npick Encryption to Reveal Decades of Online Secrets

Is quantum computing the end of effective data encryption?

Could quantum computing herald the end of effective data encryption?

Credit: chargerv8/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The advent of a universal quantum computer could herald the end of effective data encryption, according to ISARA Corp.'s Michael Brown at the CW TEC conference in Cambridge, England.

"The assumptions that we've made in a lot of our Internet-based systems, that this is safe because of the fact that classical computers can't solve it, that doesn't hold anymore in the context of quantum computers," he says.

Brown cites the potential for a quantum computer running Shor's algorithm to crack Transport Layer Security's public-key algorithms.

He also notes security services are gleaning Internet traffic routed through fiber-optic cables, with the possibility of that traffic being retained until it can be quantum-decrypted, again with a system running Shor's algorithm. "If that information is out there encrypted on the Internet, then you need to worry," Brown says.

Moreover, he says quantum computers could disrupt the digital signing process for ensuring the authenticity of software updates or digital documents. "As a company, if you think about how you update the cryptography that you use, this is not something you do over a weekend," Brown cautions. "You really have a two-, three-, or four-year type of transition for most organizations."

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