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Quantum Computing and The Break of Modern Cryptography

An Evening with a Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Expert: “Uncovering the Mystery of Quantum Supremacy 

 

This past week BlockSpaces had the incredible opportunity to host cybersecurity expert, Roger Grimes, who is also a data driven defense analyst at security awareness company, KnowBe4, on a presentation of “Quantum Computing and The Break of Modern Cryptography”.  Roger is a 30-year computer security consultant, instructor, holder of dozens of computer certifications, and author of 11 books and over 1,000 magazine articles on computer security. Additionally, he has spoken at many of the world’s biggest computer security conferences, been in Newsweek™ magazine, appeared on television, been interviewed for NPR’s All Things Considered™, the Wall Street Journal, and been a guest on dozens of radio shows and podcasts. His impressive career includes tenures at some of the world’s largest computer security companies, including Foundstone, McAfee, and Microsoft, and he has consulted for hundreds of companies, from the largest to the smallest, around the world.

 

BlockSpaces co-founder, Rosa Shores, introduces KnowB4, cyber security expert, Roger Grimes

To say that we had a cybersecurity expert in the room is an understatement, and thankfully,  Roger started by explaining quantum computing as simply as possible. It is difficult to do justice in writing to how well Roger conveyed this information, but the basic description is that digital quantum computers use quantum logic gates to do computation which in turn use quantum bits known as qubits. Qubits are the quantum version of the classical binary bit physically realized with a two-state device. A qubit is a two-state (or two-level) quantum-mechanical system, one of the simplest quantum systems displaying the peculiarity of quantum mechanics. This immediately led into descriptions of quantum entanglement, infinite world theory, and other brain twisting concepts. What was fascinating about these incursions is that while this is all provable,  and indeed Roger confirmed that this is one of the most tested scientific theories there is, he still mentioned that scientists have no idea why it happens. Suffice it to say some of these concepts left me in a bit of a whirl and completely fascinated. 

An actual photo of me at this point in the presentation.

 

The quantum break however was a much simpler topic to understand. Essentially, this is when quantum computers actually reach the level of sophistication in which they can break standard key encryption. This does not immediately lend itself to alarm bells going off until you realize the brevity of that situation. Standard key encryption is a part of everything including RSA, DH, ECC, ElGamal, PKI, digital certificates, digital signatures, TLS, HTTPS, VPNs, WiFi protection, smartcards, HSMs, crypto-currencies, two-factor authentication which relies on digital certificates (e.g. FIDO keys, Google security keys, etc.), etc. Basically, if you have anything you would like to keep secret it must be at least “quantum resistant” or having a level of cryptography that the current level of these specialized computers cannot break. 

Cyber security expert, Roger Grimes, fascinates BlockSpaces members.

Even with this potential threat, there are thousands of positive (and very exciting)  applications of quantum computing including: 

  • New understanding of physics and our universe 
  • Solve complicated math quickly 
  • Give us incredible precision (military, weather, traffic mgmt.) 
  • New medicines, better solar cells, new chemicals 
  • True artificial intelligence 
  • Things we cannot imagine right now

While it is safe to say that Roger Grimes is an expert in the space, we also now know he might very well be the quantum oracle based on a timely prediction he made in the presentation. Roger mentioned that there was a significant chance that “quantum supremacy” had already been attained. Quantum supremacy  references a fundamental new epoch in computing which indicates a demonstration of a quantum computation that cannot be performed on any conventional computer, even the world’s best supercomputer. Roger stated that if this state is not already achieved by some of the biggest tech players on the planet, it was highly likely to be completed by the end of the year. Not even 12 hours later Google announced on NASA’s website that it had reached the quantum break by perfecting a computer that had reached the golden 54 qubit threshold. Although one of its qubits didn’t work, the remaining 53 were quantum entangled with one another and used to generate a set of binary digits and check their distribution was truly random. The paper calculated that the task would have taken Summit, the world’s best supercomputer, 10,000 years – but Google’s quantum computer did it in 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

Mysteriously, the paper, which was first reported by the Financial Times, has been subsequently taken down for reasons unknown. However, because this is the internet, numerous insta-copies were made before the puzzling deletion, and are now freely available to read online.

At this writing, Google has not officially explained to anybody what’s going on with the puzzling publishing, and then deletion of, the paper which has all sparked enormous speculation online about what has or hasn’t happened.  

You can read more about Roger’s speculation on these events here.

We know everyone that attended the presentation came away feeling much smarter and we will continue to follow Roger and his predictions about this highly fascinating space. Look for him to  come back soon to BlockSpaces for a follow up “What Now?” presentation! We highly recommend you read Roger’s book “Cryptography Apocalypse: Preparing for the Day When Quantum Computing Breaks Today’s Crypto” and you can order it here.

Me, feeling smarter after the presentation, with Roger Grimes and BlockSpaces cofounder, Gabe Higgins.

BlockSpaces Members will be able to access the entire video presentation, as well as Roger’s slide presentation soon in our Members Only section along with many other of our exciting speakers here

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