There are many stories that we have all heard about hacking, identity theft, and other criminal or nuisance vulnerabilities involving digital assets. We all try to protect our systems and our data, but it is extremely difficult now that there is so much data and so many devices involved. The amount of interaction and the amount of data have multiplied many times with the introduction of smartphones, cellular networks and the Internet of Things (IoT). Who had the foresight to realize that your refrigerator or car could provide an easy way to hack into corporate or government networks? We really need to “protect” everything. A clear example of how rampant hackers are getting is the existence of “Collection # 1”, which is a huge folder of data that exposes almost 800,000 email addresses and around 21 million passwords, all in one folder. about 87 gigabytes in size. Unlike offenses with criminal intent, Collection # 1 is available on a public hacking website for anyone to see – it is not for sale!
Protection of digital devices and data is still based on encryption, the process of recoding data using a digital “key” and unlocking that data with only the same identical “key”. Individuals and businesses can maximize the effectiveness of encryption by using “strong” passwords, which mix capital letters, symbols, and numbers. Cracking modern encryption keys is very difficult, as encryption has come a long way from the original method used by Julius Caesar of simply choosing a space offset for each letter of the alphabet, for example: offset “2” where each “A” is encoded as “C”, and so on. There are only 25 possibilities for this recoding, so it is quite easy to crack a cesarean code. Data encryption has taken many steps forward in the intervening years and is now considered unhackable. The easiest targets for hackers are passwords written on your desk and loose talk on the water cooler.
However, with the rise of quantum computing, the ability to crack strong encryption keys is getting closer, simply because quantum computers are so fast and powerful that they can attempt a lot of guesses in a very short time. This is the “brute force” trick, in which given enough guesswork, the correct key will eventually be found. What might currently take 100 years to guess with a fast, classical computer, might take just 5 years with quantum computing.
Quantum computers use the fundamentals of quantum mechanics to speed up calculations, using flexible qubits instead of classical bits that can only be ZERO or ONE. Qubits can be both, or something in between. With quantum computing we should have the ability to design specially designed algorithms to solve specific problems, such as cracking codes and designing indecipherable codes. The current leaders in the quantum computing space are IBM, Google, Microsoft, Alibaba, Intel, D-Wave Systems, and Rigetti Quantum Computing. The race is on to see who will dominate Quantum solutions for the broad market. In the next 10 years, the number of quantum computers will likely exceed the number of classical computers, ushering in a new era of computing, with speeds and power unimaginable just a few years ago. This will require more stable hardware, commercial software development platforms, and large and fast cloud computing capabilities.
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