A Quantum Leap in Online Security

Quantum computing will render current online security tools obsolete; luckily, there are efforts underway to keep our data safe and secure.

 |  Transcript [PDF]

We all worry about whether our personal information is secure online and thanks to modern cryptography, we can feel relatively safe shopping, banking and filing our tax returns on the internet. Cryptography is the art of providing information security using mathematical tools and it is how your computer knows that you are actually interfacing with the company you think you are interfacing with on the internet when personal information is being shared back and forth. These mathematical tools are also used to keep our other communications secure and prevent eavesdropping by a third party. However, with advances in quantum computing, this may all change.

Quantum mechanics fundamentally redefines which computer codes are actually secure. Quantum computers use the principles of quantum physics to explore many computational possibilities at the same time and thus solve problems much faster than our current day technology. In fact, the main way we secure the internet and most of our communication technologies today uses a mathematical tool that can easily be broken once we have large scale quantum computers. Michele Mosca, Deputy Director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, is developing cryptographic tools that will be safe against quantum technologies. He is also researching strategies with which to migrate from the way we currently secure the internet and all of our other information communications to a suite of quantum-safe cryptographic tools.

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Michele Mosca is co-founder and Deputy Director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, and a founding member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. He is co-founder and director of the NSERC CREATE Training Program in Building a Workforce for the Cryptographic Infrastructure of the 21st Century. His current research interests include quantum algorithms and complexity, and the development of cryptographic tools that will be safe against quantum technologies. Awards and honours include the 2010 Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 award, Canada Research Chair in Quantum Computation (2002-2012), Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (2010-present), University Research Chair (2012-present), and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013).

Allison Guy is a freelance science writer who is passionate about increasing scientific literacy and enhancing scientific discourse among the public. She holds a MSc in neuroscience from the University of Toronto and has been working as a drug development consultant for the pharmaceutical industry both domestically and abroad for the last 5 years. She is also a lecturer at Ryerson University in the Department of Chemistry and Biology and at the G. Raymond Chang School where she teaches pharmaceutical development and regulation.