3
$\begingroup$

And if a specific country or nation-state gets a breakthrough and keeps quiet about it, can they go about quietly decrypting everything online with us none the wiser and expecting/thinking we're safe?

EDIT: A previous question with link was presented. I've read it but it doesn't address a couple things:

  • the top answer states "...just elect to do a hard fork to post-quantum cryptography." Will PQC be easily available to crypto creators/admins and is it really that trivial and easy to do? Is it as simple as switching certs or will software have to be rewritten?
  • can someone (person, entity, organization) get a breakthrough and keeps quiet about it and be quietly decrypting everything online (crypto, ecommerce, private comms) without anyone noticing?

EDIT 2: What TinaS said about a nation or company intercepting and storing current communications and decrypting it later when the technology is available worries me. Crypto wallet keys and mnenomic seeds are immutable and will be the same years from now when the QC breakthrough happens. Credit card numbers, expiration dates and security codes are good for the life of the card which is usually 4 years. Bank account info, private conversations (phone, videochat, etc), sensitive info (members list, contacts, etc) and private documents (archives, photos, signatures) are also long-term.

The solution cannot be reactive, it can't be "post-quantum". It can't simply be "electing to do a hard fork" or installing new certs. It certainly won't be flipping a switch. It will be too late then.

Once it is revealed, both the direct and collateral damage will result in carnage along with the scramble to rewrite a ton of software. I'm skeptical of this redesign & rewrite of software - what I consider the "adapt & survive" phase. As Michele Amoretti says, there will be a collapse in the markets and unpredictable consequences. Just think of all the things that hackers can do with the strong encryption and layers of security that we have now. The consequences of bad actors getting a hold of the info I listed above would be anyone's guess but it would be likely that some businesses, organizations and entities will cease to exist. What happens if we can't transact in cryptocurrencies or do ecommerce for 12-18 months? What happens to people who depend on TOR or Signal to get things done?

EDIT 3: Can current non-QC software be modified or rewritten (moving away from RSA based encryption) to prevent decryption by quantum computing or will everyone implementing cryptocurrencies, ecommerce, and private communications have to upgrade to QC software AND hardware to be able to implement encryption that can hold up to decryption attempts by quantum computing?

Let's say a person or lab working on QC achieves a breakthrough and publishes it in a scientific journal for everyone to see, what exactly are the steps we take to secure our current encrypted systems? If the answer to my question above is the latter, maybe would things play out this way: 1. chip makers start working on a QC chip or chipset 2. when #1 is achieved, OS vendors would start rewriting code for an operating system for that chip 3. when #2 is achieved, vendors for software development platform (Java, .NET, etc) would start rewriting their code 4. when #3 is achieved, vendors for software for cryptocurrencies, ecommerce, and private comms would start (re)writing code

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? Does quantum computing threaten blockchain? $\endgroup$
    – Mark S
    Jun 16 '20 at 2:40
  • $\begingroup$ MarkS - thanks for pointing that out. I've read thru that link and it doesn't answer my question. I'll edit my question to address this. $\endgroup$
    – theman
    Jun 16 '20 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ Question updated. $\endgroup$
    – theman
    Jun 18 '20 at 19:56
3
$\begingroup$

Quantum computing will not kill private communication, cryptocurrency or ecommerce but will cause fundamental changes in how these are implemented. For instance, RSA encryption standards will no longer be effective since factoring is a problem that can easily be solved with a powerful quantum computer. This will lead to the need for post-quantum cryptography (or quantum resistant encryption based on newly identified standards like QKD). Also, a nation or big company could not only keep quiet about their developments, but also possibly intercept and store all communications as of now, and encrypt it later when the technology is available.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ ...which will, theoretically, be impenetrable $\endgroup$
    – Strawberry
    Jun 16 '20 at 12:43
1
$\begingroup$

I think that if someone (Government / big company) would learn how to break currently used cryptographic algorithms, this could be unnoticed for a while but not for a long time. At that point, panic would cause a major collapse of the markets. This would have unpredictable consequences even for the Government / big company that initiated it.

On the other hand, it is likely that PQC will be widely available before that could happen. For examples, look at this page.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Michele - thanks for the link. I'll keep an eye on their progress. $\endgroup$
    – theman
    Jun 16 '20 at 7:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.