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Quantum Computations, Crypto, and Chicken Little

UCSB qbit processorYet again, the sky is falling.

Researchers at UCSB have demonstrated a "quantum processor" that correctly operates "Schor's algorithm for factoring primes" all of 48% of the time (Photo left, courtesy of UCSB). This has produced all sorts of dire predictions about existing cryptographic mechanisms. 

This is nonsense. We don't know enough about quantum computing to believe that a practical quantum computer architecture can follow Moore's law. And so-called "quantum cryptography" is not the answer.

Despite the limitations, it makes terrific headlines for cousins of Chicken Little who know just enough about technology to be dangerous.

We should also keep in mind that very few, if any, security applications have an effective life that makes crypto less risky than its avoidance. Even if "all secrets are laid bare" by some future quantum computer, we'll no doubt have a whole set of different issues and concerns - and technologies - by then.

The Actual Research

I don't know enough about physics to judge the quality of the research involved here. It came out of a doctoral dissertation, which isn't typically the source of a major breakthrough. 

Quantum Cryptography - Not the Answer

Quantum cryptography depends on transmitting molecules between endpoints. That isn't the sort of thing we use in real-world information sharing. We want to send data any way possible: electronically, optically, or via carrier pidgeon. We don't want to be limited to some magic pipeline carrying magic molecules, no matter how secure the physicists claim it might be.

This is a matter of fixing a part of the problem that fits the expert's narrow focus. It doesn't fix the real-world problem.

 

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