Should You Be Concerned With Quantum Computing in 2020?

By Hubert Yoshida posted 08-27-2020 21:01

  

Last year, in October 2019, Google announced that its quantum computer had done a computation in just 200 seconds, which it claimed that the world's fastest traditional supercomputer would have needed 10,000 years to solve. With this announcement Google claimed Quantum Supremacy.  This means that Google’s quantum computer has solved a problem that a traditional computer essentially could not solve. Shortly thereafter, IBM proved that it could have been done in hours with a modern supercomputer, which would make the quantum computer only 1,000 times faster. Whether the difference is 200 seconds or 200,000 seconds, the important point is that Quantum Computers do exist and they are really fast!

While COVID 19 has consumed much of researcher’s attention. There has been progress in the development of Quantum computing. This month Amazon announced the availability of Braket, a fully managed quantum computing service that helps researchers and developers explore potential applications and evaluate current quantum computing technologies. Amazon Braket provides access to two different quantum compute paradigms. There is quantum annealing hardware from D-Wave, and two types of gate-based quantum computers: ion-trap devices from IonQ, and systems built on superconducting qubits from Rigetti.  You cannot run a problem designed for one paradigm on a QPU that supports the other one, so you will need to choose the appropriate QPU early in your exploratory journey.

Amazon Braket is available in the US-East (N. Virginia), US-West (Oregon) and US-West (N. California) AWS Regions. Pricing – Each task that you run will incur a per-task charge and an additional per-shot charge that is specific to the type of QPU that you use. There is also a simulator that incurs an hourly charge, billed by the second, with a 15 second minimum. Considering the cost of installing a Quantum Computer with near zero cooling this is a low cost way of learning about Quantum computing.

Hitachi has an annealing computer that is based on a CMOS Ising chip which I blogged about last year. Hitachi has recently made improvements on this working with Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology. We are also working with the gate based Quantum computers at the Hitachi Cambridge Lab in the UK. If you are interested in what we are doing with customers we can provide you with contacts through our Global Centers for Social Innovation, one of which is located with Hitachi Vantara HQ in Santa Clara, California.

While many think that Quantum computers are still 10 years in the future, there are considerations that we need to be thinking about today. Quantum Computers are a threat to current encryption methods like RSA and AES which depend on factorization. While classic computers have difficulty with factorization of large numbers into prime numbers, Quantum computers can solve factorization problems in a matter of seconds and access all our encrypted secrets. Current cryptographic systems like RSA and. AES protect the details of online bank transactions and other sensitive information. Quantum computers could solve many of these previously intractable problems easily, and while the technology remains in its infancy, it will be able to defeat many current cryptosystems as it matures.

Cryptographers have been searching for new types of encryption that can future proof encryption against assault by quantum computers and still support current communications protocols and networks. These new methods do not depend on factorization, and do not need to wait for the speeds of quantum computing.  They could be implemented today if we agree on a standard. Hitachi research has been working on Lattice Cryptography Systems which does not depend on factorization and would be future proofed against quantum computer hacks.

After spending more than 3 years examining new approaches to encryption and data protection that could defeat an assault from a quantum computer, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has selected a final group of 15. NIST has now begun the third round of public review. This “selection round” will help the agency decide on the small subset of these algorithms that will form the core of the first post-quantum cryptography standard. The intent is to give people tools that are capable of protecting sensitive information for the foreseeable future, including after the advent of powerful quantum computers.

The latest details on the project appear in the Status Report on the Second Round of the NIST Post-Quantum Cryptography Standardization Process (NISTIR 8309), which was published on July 22, 2020.  NIST is asking experts to provide their input on the candidates in the report. Because of potential delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the third round has a looser schedule than past rounds. The review period will last about a year, after which NIST will issue a deadline to return comments for a few months afterward. Following this roughly 18-month period, NIST will plan to release the initial standard for quantum-resistant cryptography in 2022. 

The hard part would be in implementing a new encryption scheme when there are exabytes of data and protocols which need to be changed. For instance, RSA was introduced in 1976 but it took decades before it was widely accepted. I suggest that you review the NIST report and consider what needs to be done to protect your encrypted systems in the post Quantum Computing age, which may not be that far off
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