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IBM warns of instant breaking of encryption by quantum computers
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IBM warns of instant breaking of encryption by quantum computers

Quantum computers will be able to instantly break the encryption of sensitive data protected by today’s strongest security, warns the head of IBM Research.

This could happen in a little more than five years because of advances in quantum computer technologies.

“Anyone that wants to make sure that their data is protected for longer than 10 years should move to alternate forms of encryption now,” said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research.

Krishna was speaking at a meeting of The Churchill Club in San Francisco on a panel (above, second from right) discussing quantum computers in business. The panel, which included Kam Moler, a professor of Physics at Stanford University, as well as Bob Stolte, a managing director at JPMorgan, was moderated by journalist Martin Giles (first from left).

Quantum computers can solve some types of problems near-instantaneously compared with billions of years of processing using conventional computers.

Moler said people might feel safe because they have done everything they are supposed to do to secure their existing data — but quantum computing will break it. “I do think that’s scary,” she said.

It has been known since the 1980s that quantum computers would be great at factoring large numbers, which is the foundation of public key cryptography. But building large enough quantum computers was not possible then.

Advances in novel materials and in low-temperature physics have led to many breakthroughs in the quantum computing field in recent years. and large commercial quantum computer systems will soon be viable and available within five years.

Krishna said that there is a type of encryption, called Lattice Field, that is thought to be resistant to quantum computing attacks.

“The good news is that it is as efficient as our current encryption so it won’t cost more,” he said.

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