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What to Do Now About Tomorrow's Code-Cracking Computers


Quantum computers turn some of the probabilistic, simultaneously here-and-there weirdness of quantum physics into number-crunching elegance.

Credit: Alberto Miranda

Hacking and data breaches are a cost of doing business. One defence is to use encryption, but in the fast-approaching era of quantum computers that defence will fail.

When quantum computers reach their potential, decades of secret intelligence, credit-card details, intellectual property and military and medical data will become as easy to read as the words before your eyes. The world will suffer the broadest, deepest hack in history.

Now researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (nist), America's standards agency, have shown how to avert at least some of that catastrophe. Governments, business leaders and software vendors should pay heed.

Cryptography protocols involve calculations that are harder to undo than do. For instance, it is easy to multiply two big prime numbers together, but impossibly time-consuming to get back the primes from the answer. If both sender and receiver know one of the primes, they can decrypt a message that is uncrackable to everyone else.

From The Economist
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