Does emerging quantum technology pose a threat to modern cybersecurity?

Acknowledgment for claw scratch: created by timmdesign - www.freepik.com

Current IT security heavily rests on the concept known as Public key infrastructure (PKI). This concept allows for secure communication over a hostile network, such as internet, and is a necessary ingredient to almost any secure connection.

We typically make use of PKI concepts when surfing the internet through our favorite browser. By visiting webpages, we establish secure or insecure connections, which is indicated by the presence or absence of a padlock at the beginning of the URL (search) bar (see below). This is particularly relevant if sensitive information is being sent over (personal information, bank card details, login details for various sensitive accounts, etc.).

If properly implemented, PKI is as difficult to break as it is to factor a big (a few thousand bits long) number comprised of two big prime numbers, which ensures a secure connection over the hostile network. However, although attempts to break PKI with a classical computer would take eons with a slim chance for success, an adequate quantum computer would likely break it in a reasonable amount of time, as proposed in the article "Plynomial-Time Algorithms for Prime Factorization and Discrete Logarithms on a Quantum Computer" by Peter Shor in 1995.

Regardless of the rapidly growing interest and progress in quantum technology, a quantum computer that would pose a real threat to the current PKI is likely not available yet. Still, exciting times of quantum technology development and its impact on cybersecurity are ahead.

Have the cybersecurity and cryptography experts got something up the sleeves to save the world? Stay tuned and find it out in one of the upcoming blog articles.