Security experts have long worried that advances in quantum computing could eventually make it easier to break encryption that protects the privacy of people’s data. That’s because these sophisticated machines can perform calculations at speeds impossible for conventional computers, potentially enabling them to crack codes previously thought indecipherable.
Swiss technology company ”Terra Quantum AG” says it has made a breakthrough by using quantum computers to uncover weaknesses in commonly used encryption. It believes it has found a security vulnerability that could jeopardize the secrecy of the world’s internet data, banking transactions and emails.
The Swiss tech company said its discovery “upends the current understanding of what constitutes unbreakable” and could have major implications for the world’s leading technology companies, such as Google Alphabet and Microsoft.
But some other security experts said they are almost not ready to announce a major crypto hack, at least not until the company publishes full details of its research.
“If true, that would be a huge result,” says Brent Waters, a computer science professor specializing in cryptography at the University of Texas at Austin. “It seems somewhat unlikely on the surface. However, it is very difficult for experts to think of something without.” bulletin”.
For his part, Christopher Sciacca, a spokesman for “IBM”, said that his company has known the risks for 20 years, and is working to find solutions of its own to address the issue of post-quantum security.
“This is why the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) is facing a challenge to develop a new secure quantum encryption standard,” he said in an email. “IBM has many proposals for this new standard in its final stage, and it is expected that it will happen within a few years,” he added.
Brian Lamasia, an engineer at Microsoft, said the company’s cryptographic designers are collaborating with the global crypto community to prepare customers and data centers for a quantum future.
“Preparing for security in a post-quantum world is important not only to protect and secure future data, but also to ensure that future quantum computers do not pose a threat to the long-term security of today’s information,” he added.
Terra Quantum AG has a team of about 80 quantum physicists, cryptographers and mathematicians, who are based in Switzerland, Russia, Finland and the U.S. “What currently is viewed as being post-quantum secure is not post-quantum secure,” said Markus Pflitsch, chief executive officer and founder of Terra Quantum, in an interview. “We can show and have proven that it isn’t secure and is hackable.”
Pflitsch founded the company in 2019. He’s a former finance executive who began his career as a research scientist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Terra Quantum’s research is led by two chief technology officers – Gordey Lesovik, head of the Laboratory of Quantum Information Technology at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, and Valerii Vinokur, a Chicago-based physicist who in 2020 won the Fritz London Memorial Prize for his work in condensed matter and theoretical physics.
The company said its research has found weaknesses affecting symmetric encryption ciphers, including the Advanced Encryption Standard, which is widely used to secure data transmitted over the Internet and encrypt files.
Using the “quantum annealing” method, the company said its research found that even the strongest versions of the advanced encryption standard may be decodable by quantum computers that could be available a few years from now.
Fincor said that the Terra Quantum team made the discovery after learning how to invert the “hash function,” a mathematical algorithm that converts a message or part of data into a numerical value.
He stated that the research will show that “what was believed to be unbreakable no longer exists (and will not be) anymore,” adding that the discovery “means that a thousand other ways can be found soon.”
The company, backed by Zurich-based venture capital firm Lakestar LP, has developed a new cryptographic protocol that it says cannot be hacked by quantum computers.
Finkor said the new protocol uses a method known as “quantum key distribution”.
Terra Quantum is currently seeking a patent for the new protocol. But the company will make it available for free, Pflitch said, “We will open access to our protocol to make sure we have a safe and secure environment.” “We feel compelled to share it with the quantum world and community,” he added.
The US and Chinese governments have made the field of quantum computing research an economic and national security priority, by saying that the world is on the cusp of a new “quantum revolution”.
In addition, technology companies, including Google, Microsoft and IBM have made major investments in quantum computing in recent years.