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The Race to Save the Internet from Quantum Hackers

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Cartoon showing a digital orb locked with chains being attacked by quantumness.

Researchers estimate that to break cryptosystems, quantum computers will need to have in the order of 1,000 times more computing components than they currently do.

Credit: Dalbert B. Vilarino

Even the most bullish proponents of quantum computing say it will be a while before machines are powerful enough to crack encryption keys, and many doubt it will happen this decade—if at all. But the risk is real enough that the Internet is being readied for a makeover, to limit the damage if Q-day—the day when quantum computers break the Internet—happens.

These machines that do not yet exist endanger not only our future communications, but also our current and past ones. Data thieves who eavesdrop on Internet traffic could already be accumulating encrypted data, which they could unlock once quantum computers become available. That means we need to switch to stronger cryptographic systems, or cryptosystems, now.

From Nature
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