Future Quantum Computers May Pose Serious Security Risks to Our Communications

Our current communications systems would not be able to keep us safe from future quantum computers, says a RAND Corporation report.
Fabienne Lang

Scientists are working hard on quantum computers, — these are impressively much faster than our current computers and are capable of code-breaking applications — which may be available as soon as 12 to 15 years' time.

These quantum computers could pose serious security threats to our communications systems though, as per a RAND Corporation report

These threats can be managed, if governments act rapidly to manage these future challenges, says the report. 


RAND Corporation's report

"If adequate implementation of new security measures has not taken place by the time capable quantum computers are developed, it may become impossible to ensure secure authentication and communication privacy without major, disruptive changes," said Michael Vermeer, lead author of the report and a physical scientist at nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND.

"The United States has the means and very likely enough time to avert a quantum disaster and build a safer future, but only if it begins preparations now."

Drafts of standard protocols for post-quantum cryptography that are able to maintain the current level of computing security are meant to be available in the next five years. However, the global transition required to implement these protocols over to quantum computing would realistically take decades

The RAND report clearly states that the sooner an operable standard is implemented the better, as the risk will be diminished. 

The RAND researchers stress that governments need to create and ultimately implement new policies, risk-minimizing measures, an entire governmental approach and a sense of urgency, in order to create a safe future communications infrastructure.

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"The advent of quantum computers presents retroactive risk because information being securely communicated today without postquantum cryptography may be captured and held by others now in order to be decrypted and revealed later once quantum computers are created. This presents a vulnerability that urgently needs to be addressed," stated Evan Peet, a co-author of the report and an economist at RAND.

The future of quantum computers is an exciting one, so it would be best not to tarnish that with worries over cybersecurity if we're in fact able to control that aspect.

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