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Quantum Computing: Stashing Encrypted Data for Future Cracking

By Dick Weisinger

In preparation for the day when quantum computing is available, hackers are stashing away encrypted data. Today’s encryption algorithms will be no match for true quantum computing which will operate at compute speeds of millions of times faster than today’s computers. That means that the encrypted secrets of today will be easily readable in future, and that has inspired hackers to start collecting encrypted data that could be of value some time in the future. The technique is being called ‘harvest and decrypt’.

Michael Vermeer, physical scientist at RAND, said that “when we use the internet, we assume that all of our communications are secure and guarded from an attacker reading or seeing them. That is because cryptography—sort of a ‘black box’ to most people—is in the background, securing everything we do. But the public-key cryptography we use now will be vulnerable to quantum computers in the future.”

A report by Booz, Allen, Hamilton found that “the outsized threat of a rival state possessing the ability to decrypt any data using current public-key encryption rapidly generates high risk. Encrypted data with intelligence longevity, like biometric markers, covert intelligence officer and source identities, Social Security numbers, and weapons’ designs, may be increasingly stolen under the expectation that they can eventually be decrypted.”

But others suggest that nothing will come out of the hacker ‘harvest and decrypt’ strategies. Bruce Schneier, computer security expert, said that “there are actually very few long-term secrets in our society. We don’t have 30-year secrets. There are no military secrets from the 1970s that are secret today.” But others worry that quantum computing may become viable much sooner than expected.

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