Now, for the tech part of this newsletter, let’s talk about quantum computing for a bit and you will quickly realize, this is about time as well.
Google shared new details on their quantum computing project and recent breakthrough back in October. And what a breakthrough it has been! For the first time ever, as far as the public knows at least, they achieved quantum supremacy which means the quantum computer solved a task significantly faster than a conventional computer (see, it’s about time!).
Let’s not talk about how exactly a quantum computer works (because I have no idea) but instead what potential impact this could have. And specifically how it could change online security for the better or worse.
Right now, the strength of a password is measured in it’s length and not so much by the choosing numbers and special characters as well, as many tried to make you belief for quite some time. That is because with every added character you password becomes much harder to guess.
In something called brute-forcing, a computer tries every possible combination in a set of characters. Right now, this takes a lot of time depending on you password’s length. And to be clear, we’re not talking about your instagram password anymore. If you have a quantum computer at hand, I pretty sure you couldn’t care less about someones instagram profile. We’re talking about encryption keys that protect online banking, sensitive personal data and even military secrets. Here, they use e.g. 128 bit encryption, resulting in keys like this 340.282.366.920.938.463.463.374.607.431.768.211.456
Not your average instagram password, right? They are so secure because it would take a conventional computer (and we’re talking super-computers) many many years to guess / calculate. And by then, the key got already replaced by a new one.
Get to the point, Martin!
Alright, alright. So here is the gist: A quantum computer could potentially crack this code in hours if not minutes instead of years, and thereby becoming a severe security risk.
But Martin, can’t we just generate longer keys?
Well yeah, but we’ll talk about that in another episode.