Quantum computing is a computation performed using a computing device on the basis of strange, counter-intuitive physical properties of matter at very small scale, called as quantum mechanics.
Unlike a classical computer based on transistors that encodes data into binary digits in the form of 1 or 0, a quantum computer uses qubits where a single qubit is able to encode more than two states.
Do Quantum Computers really exist?
Yes- simple, small scale quantum computers have been built and successfully demonstrated as well. But currently these are laboratory instruments that are quite large, expensive and intricate to use, and come with very limited capabilities. However, they do not fail to prove that the underlying physical principles are sound.
However, the challenge lies in building one that is big enough to perform useful tasks quite better than the classical computers. There are many universities, companies and government agencies around the world hunting for the same, using a wide array of several experimental techniques.
With quantum computers, it could be possible to create algorithms that run essentially faster on a quantum computer than a classical computer because of the unique characteristics of qubits. Such algorithms could be used for a number of different scientific and business applications, and will come with host of benefits.
How important are Quantum Computers to IT Security?
There are many significant aspects of IT security that relies on encryption and public key cryptography, which are actually important for e-commerce and safeguarding secret electronic information.
These techniques are based on mathematical algorithms that are very difficult to break. But, it is very much possible to create unique algorithms for quantum computers that substantially minimized the time it requires to break the algorithms.
On the other hand, symmetric algorithms used for encryption are still considered to be safe. However, current asymmetric algorithms like RSA and ECDSA will be rendered necessarily useless once the quantum computer reaches a fixed scale. This will help break nearly every practical application of cryptography in use, making e-commerce and several other digital applications that we depend on in our daily lives completely insecure.
When will Large Quantum Computers become Available?
Well, the truth is that no one knows about it. It totally depends on a number of scientific and engineering break-throughs being made, which could pan out in the next 5-10 years, or maybe never. Moreover, it also might take many more years before such computers are generally affordable outside of large government agencies.
The Time to Act Now!
The time frame is still questionable for when we might have a quantum computer powerful enough to run Shor’s and Grover’s algorithms. But when we do, it might be possible that anyone with the required access could be able to crack top-secret data. Though significant progress towards this goal is being continuously made, it is still too early to decide a date on the calendar.
However, the good news is that quantum computing cryptography works today. And the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is running a process to determine and standardize one or more quantum-resistant public-key technologies.
So what does this turn out for all of us who depend online or save our pictures and videos on the cloud? Well, it clearly means that we all can rest knowing a problem, which doesn’t exist yet, is already solved. But the thing is how often can you say that about anything in life?
And so far as we know, quantum computers seem to be theoretically possible, and building them is more of a matter of very hard and stringent engineering.