We keep hearing about quantum computing and how it is going to change cybersecurity as we know it, but what is it?

Today’s computing is made up of binary bits either 0 or 1, therefore if we ask a computer to guess a number 0-9 it will try 0000, then 0001, 0010,0100, and so on until it gets the right match and will sequentially guess until it’s ‘true’. Quantum computing is based on Qubits which are both a 0 and 1 at the same time, that means that all possibilities exist. Now it will compute all possibilities, then an algorithm called a Grover operator(named for Lov Grover, the scientist who came up with the algorithm) will reject all ‘false’ options leaving only the ‘true’. Rather than taking a seconds, this happens instantly.

How is it that something can be both a 0 and a 1 at the same time?  This is likened to a coin being flipped; while it’s in the air it is both heads and tails at the same time. A Qubit need to constantly be in motion for it to exhibit all possibilities. Once it is collapsed and observed the Qubitbecomes either a 0 or a 1.

How does this affect cybersecurity? When you think about what this could do to breaking encryption code it can be frightening, but by using Quantum computing we can also create quantum safe encryption that has all possibilities until a certain condition exists that collapses it. Even quantum computers will be hard-pressed to establish the correct condition to collapse the Qubits and break the encryption.

How soon will I be able to buy a quantum computer? There are two different approaches to building quantum computers, basically IBM’s and Google’s, and neither has really advanced enough to make these available to the pubic at a reasonable cost. One of the challenges is building an environment where the Qubits stay in motion, so far they have to kept refrigerated at a specific level of cold to keep them moving. Another issue once they can be built is that software will need to be developed to run them.  While technology advances quickly, we are still probably a good decade away from quantum computers being in our networks.