Can Quantum Computers Hack Passwords?

| May 13, 2015

Entanglement is a theory that states 2 particles can become related and coordinate their properties instantly. If you’ve seen Star Trek, you understand that this concept works with the transporters that they use to beam themselves onto the surface of other planets. This is one aspect of quantum computing. There is another equally amazing property in the form of an aspect called superposition. This is the idea of a particle holding 2 value a one and a zero at the same time.

Password Hacking

Password Hacking

Einstein Dismisses Quantum Theory

While these concepts might seem ludicrous, at the atomic level particles operate differently. Even Albert Einstein was skeptical about the concept of quantum entanglement, going as far as to write a scientific paper in 1935 questioning its probability. Einstein has since been proven wrong, with researchers even demonstrating entanglement over a distance of 15 miles, and are ever closing in harnessing it inside quantum computers.

Quantum Computing Security

The next generation of quantum computers will be built to solve the most complex scientific problems of today, and even unlock digital vaults that are supposedly safe with today’s encryption methods. These quantum computers will be able to perform the most complex of computations in seconds, compared of computer today taking millions of years.

Quantum computers will be used for everything from financial analysis to weather forecasting, with even daily aspects of our life such as logistical planning and drug discovery receiving a notable boost. There is a much underthought of aspect too though, and that’s security. Quantum computers will be powerful enough to compromise bank records, breach the security algorithms that keep our communications private, and allow any individual to crack a password for another computer easier than ever before.

Quantum Computer Race

There is a race to build the first working quantum computer and the NSA is not in the lead. The competing tech companies are Google, who has already developed a working demonstration of a quantum CPU, IBM, and Microsoft. Even universities and startup companies are getting into the quantum computing field. One canadian startup has said they have already developed the first version of a quantum computer. Ronald Hanson, who is a physicist at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands has stated they will be able to make the building blocks of a universal quantum computer in less than 5 years, and a full demonstrable version in less than 10.

The analogy for computer that use quantum technology at the risk to the current security algorithms is stark.Imagine being able to try every possible combination of a safe at the same time. This is a prospect that’s drawing ever closer with some solutions to the challenges that quantum computers already face being solved. Which materials should you use to generate entangled photon pairs? How do you create and control qubits?

IBM Quantum Computer

These are already the fundamental roadblocks to quantum computing that have been answered. IBM has just announced that they have found a way to detect and then measure quantum errors and they have designed a new qubit circuit that will form the foundation of the chips that quantum computers will need. IBM have went on to say that we have already entered the golden era of quantum computing research, and predicted they would be first to develop a working quantum computer.

D-Wave Quantum Computer

Vern Bromwell, who is the chief executive of the Canadian based startup D-Wave, has said that they will be first with a scalable quantum computer. They have claimed to already have proven entanglement and are now working on methods to produce the best possible results for complex numerical problems. They’ve named this approach as adiabatic computing, and said that although it can’t solve every problem, or crack every password, it can be used in machine learning, as well as for science and national defense. The D-Wave computer will be a compliment to digital computers, providing a special resource that is designed for certain classes of problems.

The D-Wave Two is claimed to have 512 qubits and can already calculate 2^512 which is two raised to the power of 512. This is how many operations it can in theory perform simultaneously. Bromwell has said the company will soon release a quantum processor that has more than 1,000 qubits. Although the computer won’t run cryptographic algorithms, it will be able to help in image detection and protein mapping as well as commercial applications such as financial modelling and oil exploration.

Quantum Safe Security

Developing new cryptography standards that hold up to the new wave of quantum computers will be difficult. The RSA standards that we use everyday took 5 years to develop. There is a need to update computer systems both hardware and software to cope with this emerging quantum threat. Some cryptography experts such as Ralph Merkle are claiming upto 10 years. There needs to be a total re-think about the standards of security as the future of Star Trek is approaching at lightspeed.

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