The most advanced encryption protocols now in use, according to Chinese academics at Tsinghua University, are vulnerable to a quantum-based algorithm they believe they have discovered.
The team claims that the algorithm can also be executed with current quantum technologies.
If this were the case, contemporary encryption might be rendered completely obsolete in a few years.
Professor Long Guili of Tsinghua University and his team claim to have developed a novel qubit-saving factorization algorithm, which could soon pose problems for cryptographic security standards.
By reducing the quantity of qubits required for code-breaking operations, the sublinear-resource quantum integer factorization (SQIF) method claims to increase the effectiveness of quantum computation.
The algorithm employed in this study was developed in 2013 by German researcher Claus Schnorr.
What does that signify to someone who doesn’t know much about quantum computing? If the method is successful, it might make it far more difficult than previously imagined to employ quantum technology to break the most sophisticated encryption now in use.
The National Security Agency (NSA) created the cryptographic hashing method known as SHA-256 in 2001. It transforms data into a 256-character encrypted string.
The encrypted output is unreadable if the recipient lacks the necessary keys to decrypt the message.
Without the proper keys, decrypting a communication is quite difficult because the decryption keys are also composed of complex mathematical sequences associated to the SHA-256 hash.
For instance, it is estimated that it would take at least 300 trillion years to use the most sophisticated classical computer resources currently available to crack an RSA-2048-bit encryption key.
It appears that 300 trillion is a wonderful, secure number about which no one should be concerned. At least, until quantum computers come into play.
A reasonable-sized quantum computer could complete the same algorithm-breaking operation in less than eight hours, according to experts in quantum mechanics and cryptography. Guili’s calculation is suspicious in this case.
If the SQIF algorithm scales and successfully reduces the quantum computing resources required to do the calculations, the time it takes for quantum technology to improve sufficiently to do the computations could be shortened from several decades to just a few years.