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Quantum computing: Threat to encryption rises but benefits abound

Quantum Computing goes far beyond breaking encryption codes and several global companies are giving it a go

Google's Quantum processor Sycamore calculated in 3 minutes, 20 seconds what would take the world’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years to do A 160 bit elliptic curve cryptographic key could be broken on a quantum computer using around 1000 qubits IBM unveiled a 20 qubit Quantum Computing system, called “IBM Q System One,” in early 2019 to study financial data, logistics, and risk

Should the crypto world be shaking in its boots because of Quantum Computing, as it poses a real threat to encryption?

Not before 10 years at least, but it’s worth a serious discussion because tech is a rapidly evolving world and hackers are likely sharpening their knives to take a stab at it as early as possible.

But Quantum Computing goes far beyond breaking encryption codes.

Several global companies are giving it a go. 

Google finds results

Google announced Wednesday it has achieved a breakthrough in Quantum Computing, saying it has developed an experimental processor that took just minutes to complete a calculation that would take the world’s best supercomputer thousands of years.

Report was published in the scientific journal Nature.

Google said that its Quantum processor, called Sycamore, finished a calculation in 3 minutes, 20 seconds  and that it would take the world’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years to do the same thing.

Machines could one day speed up finding new medicines, and, most ominously, cracking the encryption that protects data.

Quantum Computers might also one day lead to the development of better artificial intelligence systems to guide financial portfolios, crop yields or transportation routes.

Such practical uses are still probably decades away, scientists said. 

President Donald Trump last year signed a measure to spend more than $1.2 billion over five years for Quantum research across the federal government.

Read: Ripple reveals how it performed in Q3, dispels rumors of market manipulation

How does it work?

Conventional computing relies on bits, or pieces of data that bear either a one or zero. Quantum Computing employs quantum bits, or qubits, that contain values of one and zero simultaneously.  So, a Quantum Computer can combine smaller calculations rather than generating them first.

But Quantum Computing requires placing the fragile and volatile qubits in colder-than-outer-space-refrigerators to control them.

Bicoin: worried?

What does Google’s Quantum Computer means for Bitcoin?

Is it time for Bitcoin holders to panic?

Bitcoin’s architecture relies on two algorithms: ECDSA for digital signatures and SHA-256 as a hash function. If you reuse a wallet address and make a transaction, you expose your public key. 

So, yes, a Quantum Computer could use Shor’s algorithm to get your private from your public key. But don’t panic just yet. The most optimistic scientific estimates say that even if this were possible, it won’t happen during this decade.

Also, considering that Google’s machine is only 53 “quantum bits” (qubits)—a measure of the computer’s quantum power—a research paper on the matter published by Cornell University may give Bitcoin hodlers some peace of mind:

“A 160 bit elliptic curve cryptographic key could be broken on a quantum computer using around 1000 qubits while factoring the security-wise equivalent 1024 bit RSA modulus would require about 2000 qubits” (emphasis added). By comparison, Google’s measly 53 qubits are still no match for this kind of cryptography.

Read: If you like volatility for the top crypto Bitcoin, it’s coming

Top companies working on Quantum Computing

One of Google’s Quantum Computing projects involves working with NASA to apply the tech’s optimization abilities to space travel.

But companies like Google, Microsoft, and Airbus are making significant investments in Quantum Computing,  

1-Airbus 

Airbus Group established a team to tackle Quantum Computing at the end of 2015 to study quantum mechanics, from cryptography to computation, to adapt existing quantum machines to specific problems within the aerospace industry, like the handling and storage of large amounts of data.   

2. Alibaba

Alibaba has a lab dedicated to Quantum Computing called the Alibaba Quantum Computing Laboratory. The lab looks into quantum computing applications across various fields, including artificial intelligence and security for e-commerce and data centers.

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3. Booz Allen Hamilton 

Booz Allen Hamilton is looking to use Quantum Computing to find an edge in the race for better data-science products and services, including logistics, drug discovery, and validation of complex code in software.

4. IBM eyes commercial quantum computers

IBM unveiled a 20 qubit Quantum Computing system, called “IBM Q System One,” in early 2019 to study financial data, logistics, and risk, and to tackle topics such as drug research and development, mining, and the management of natural resources.

5. Intel 

In September 2015, Intel committed $50 million to QuTech and in March 2019 announced a testing tool for Quantum Computers to validate quantum wafers and check that qubits are working correctly before they’re constructed into a full quantum processor.  

6. Microsoft 

Microsoft’s QuArC group is focused on designing software architectures and algorithms for use on a scalable, fault-tolerant Quantum Computer. QuArC group collaborates closely with universities around the world. At end 2017, Microsoft announced the Quantum Development Kit, a programming framework and language called Q# for developers looking to write applications for quantum computers. In May, Microsoft said that its Quantum Development Kit had been downloaded 100,000 times and that it would open-source its Q# language, compiler, and Quantum simulator.

7. Nokia  

Today, Nokia is involved in a project at Oxford University alongside Lockheed Martin to explore the potential for Quantum technology to enhance optimization and machine learning.