Try to imagine a skilled cybercriminal on even the fastest consumer laptop attempting to break into a corporation's critical data with brute-force methods. The tasks required to crack passwords and steal credentials are often highly taxing on the computer's hardware, severely testing its capacities. It's certainly not an impossible task, but the computing operations required when performing computations such as cracking passwords are limited by the speed of the laptop.
Now take that laptop and make it a trillion times faster, then put it in the hands of the world's most skilled cybercriminal groups. Just like that, stealing vital company information becomes child's play.
That's what quantum computing can do: Produce astronomically fast computing speeds that outpace even the fastest supercomputers today.
What is quantum computing?
Quantum computing uses quantum mechanics to enhance a computer's ability to make certain kinds of calculations — the kind that even the fastest supercomputers greatly struggle with. If it sounds like science fiction, it isn't — in fact, it's already here. The first quantum computer was developed by IBM back in 2019 and was a prototype for a new type of super-supercomputer. Not to be outdone, Google soon designed the Sycamore processor, which was able to complete an advanced computation that would normally take the fastest supercomputer on earth 10,000 years to complete — in 200 seconds.
This cutting-edge type of computing would make traditional password-based systems virtually worthless — the usual processes that go into breaking into these accounts would be nearly effortless for a quantum computer. That's why governments around the world are preparing for the inevitable advent of cybercrime with these sorts of systems.
To understand quantum computing, compare it to the binary nature of how traditional computers work. The latter uses a two-dimensional string of ones and zeroes to accomplish any task — how those ones and zeroes line up determines what the computer is doing. In contrast, quantum computers use quantum bits — or qubits — to make computations, completely altering the way computers approach problems. With qubits, the usual ones and zeroes can be calculated at the same time rather than as a binary sequence, adding a new dimension to computing.
How are we preparing for quantum computing?
With passwords and encryption proving defenseless against quantum computers, one of the first steps companies can make is to finally admit the limitations of password-based systems as inadequate forms of data protection, and get rid of passwords entirely.
The telecommunications industry, as one of the first lines of defense against data breaches, can greatly benefit from research into quantum-safe cybersecurity technologies, according to Vadim Lyubashevsky, cryptography researcher at IBM Quantum Safe. Philippines-based telecommunications company Globe has made efforts to create passwordless credential technology. Companies in the Philippines have been hit with some of the most severe data breaches in recent history, with one affecting a full 80% of firms across the country.
Quantum computing can change the world, though not always for the best
Many believe quantum computing has the potential to perform wonders in many scientific fields such as climate and energy science. However, alarms are being raised that this incredible new technology can be used by bad actors. To defend against this new threat, the efforts to change how corporations and computer scientists approach cybersecurity are also progressing in an entirely new way.