Quantum Computing in Cybersecurity: Threatening or Transformative?

One of the factors that makes cybersecurity such a dynamic and interesting discipline is that wider technological evolutions often lead to ripple effects within the cybersecurity industry. One such evolution is the impending arrival of quantum computing, which has the potential to initiate seismic shifts in many areas. This article examines quantum computing in cybersecurity with a particular emphasis on potential threats and benefits.

What is Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing uses the power of quantum mechanics to perform calculations and solve certain problems that traditional computers struggle with. Underneath the hood of any modern computer, the system uses binary code to function. The most basic unit in computing is a bit, and its value is either 1 or 0. In quantum computing, the most basic unit is a qubit.

Ask any quantum physicist and they’ll tell you the universe behaves very strangely at the smallest scales. One rather quirky feature of the quantum universe is that quantum systems can be in multiple states simultaneously (superposition).

Quantum computing, with its qubits, leverages the inherently probabilistic nature of the small-scale universe to become potentially far more powerful. Instead of a normal bit that can only be 0 or 1, each qubit can be 0,1 or some combination thereof. The result is that intractable computing problems become eminently more solvable.

Without getting too bogged down in the intricate details that even professional physicists regularly struggle to explain, quantum computing poses difficulties in moving from concept to large-scale realization because qubits are unstable. Qubits need high levels of isolation from the surrounding environment and significant cooling, otherwise, the information degrades rapidly. Furthermore, the high susceptibility of quantum calculations to “noise” calls for innovative approaches to error correction.

How Far Away is Widespread Quantum Computing?

Given the feats of engineering…