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UK’s BT goes quantum at GISEC

ICT firm’s ethical hacking lead warns of quantum computing’s threat to data

UK’s BT goes quantum at GISEC
A working quantum computer could easily crack the heaviest of today’s encryption algorithms.

UK-based BT is set to explore the cyber-security implications of the fledgling world of quantum computing at the Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference (GISEC) at Dubai World Trade Centre from 9 to 11 June, 2014.

"We're looking at nothing less than a major paradigm shift in the coming years, said Konstantinos Karagiannis, global technical lead for ethical hacking, BT, who will be focusing on how quantum computing will disrupt security infrastructure in the not-so-distant future.

"Quantum computing has recently left the world of theory and is being tested. This means that within a decade everything sent over the Internet will be readable by anyone who has access to a quantum computer."

Karagiannis was referring to the massive processing power of quantum computers, which use qubits instead of bits. While a bit is a 1 or a 0, a qubit is a 1 or a 0 or any value in between because they are composed of subatomic particles, which are subject to the laws of quantum mechanics. The trouble with qubits is that when actively measured they lose the superposition quality that allows them to take on millions of values simultaneously. They adopt a value of either 1 or 0 and are relegated to a common digital computer. To prevent this, computer scientists have had to devise ways of indirect measurement of a qubit's state.

A working quantum computer capable of manipulating 30 qubits would have processing power equal to a digital machine running at 10 teraflops (trillions of floating-point operations per second). Today's typical desktop computers run at speeds measured in gigaflops (billions of floating-point operations per second). A machine with that level of computing power could easily crack the heaviest of today's encryption algorithms.

Sceptics believe that practical quantum computing is many decades away, but Karagiannis believes the future is closer than that.

"Organisations will need to take advantage of quantum weirdness and build machines that exploit it to protect sensitive data that goes out into the world," he warned.

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