Data is the new oil, but advances in quantum computing could be breaking encryption faster in the future.
Speaking at the DigiCert Security Summit in San Diego, Dr Michio Kaku, futurist and theoretical physicist, talked of the rise of quantum computing and its deployment in modern society.
Saying that after we built the world wide web, television, radio, radar and microwaves “and everything you see in a doctor’s office” the next step will be quantum. “If the first wave was about steam power, the second on electricity, the third on high tech, what will the fourth and fifth be about? The fourth wave we are now entering, it is physics at the molecular level, such as AI, nano and bio technology; then we will see the fifth wave of technology which will be dominated by physics at the atomic level.”
Kaku predicted the end of silicon, saying it “cannot compute at a quantum level” and now millions are being spent on this computing. However, while this technology is in its infancy, the threat is there.
In a press conference, Kaku said that we will head to a post silicon era and that the use of atoms can be used to break any encryption, so governments are getting ahead of the game “as there is much at stake, so now the race is on for the post quantum era where we want to find defenses against methods used by quantum computers to break codes.”
He added that today’s mainframes will be replaced by quantum computers, but mobile phones will not be replaced due to the need for a cooling infrastructure for the atoms.
Referring to Google’s announcement about its creation of a quantum computer, Kaku noted it was “premature” as while the computer was workable, it did not have any practical application for the consumer and it was compared with a modern super computer. “IBM said that because of that and not using such a fast super computer, their announcement was not such a big deal.”
However, he praised Google’s efforts, as he said that the tide has shifted, as people are no longer saying that this is a possibility for the future.
He also said that as the industrial age was powered by oil, the fourth and fifth wave will be powered by data. “Data will be the energy source of the future,” he claimed, “but data has to be processed. Oil has to go to refineries, in the same way data has to be raw, then processed. In the future, every aspect of human behavior, every aspect of human endeavor and every aspect of human enterprise will be reduced to data.”
However, this data can be hacked, and needs to be protected by encryption – and this can be broken with advanced quantum computing.
Kaku concluded by saying that all human activity will be digitized as data is wealth, and companies will want that information “and this means that data is vulnerable, and new ways to do encryption have to be devised.”
He also said that the arrival of quantum computing is not an immediate threat, but one for the coming years and decades so it is time to prepare and consider converting now. “Don’t do anything yet, but think about it and study the question” as it may take years for the conversion to take place.
He recommended four things you can do now:
- Increase the length of your keys, and you can make it more difficult for a quantum computer to crack things
- Consider symmetric, rather than asymmetric encryption, as symmetric gives you an extra layer of encryption
- Use increasingly complex trapdoor functions, such as lattice and elliptic curve technologies
- Use quantum cryptography, use quantum to fight quantum