A new algorithm is probably not efficient enough to crack current encryption keys — but that’s no reason for complacency, researchers say.

public research suggests that encrypted material may eventually be unlocked by powerful computers… Shor’s algorithm would make a quantum computer exponentially faster than a classical one at cracking an encryption system based on large prime numbers — called RSA after the initials of its inventors — as well as some other popular cryptography techniques, which currently protect online privacy and security. But implementing Shor’s technique would require a much larger quantum computer than the prototypes available. The size of a quantum computer is measured in quantum bits, or qubits; researchers say it might take a million or more qubits to crack RSA. The largest quantum machine available today — the Osprey chip announced in November by IBM — has 433 qubits.

In the paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, they claim that it could break strong RSA keys — numbers with more than 600 decimal digits — using just 372 qubits. In an email to Nature on behalf of all the authors, Guilu Long, a physicist at Tsinghua University in China, cautioned that having many qubits is not enough, and that current quantum machines are still too-error prone to do such a large computation successfully. “Simply increasing the qubit number without reducing the error rate does not help.”

while Shor’s algorithm is guaranteed to break encryption efficiently when (and if) a large-enough quantum computer becomes available, the optimization-based technique could run on a much smaller machine, but it might never finish the task.

Cold Hotman

Time to change online threat model, with limited quantum computers available for the consumer market it’s no more trusting encryption to keep us safe from bad actors.


edit: rsa is more commonly used for communication [unless rsa is being used in conjunction with another encryption algorithm]. “as well as some other popular cryptography techniques, which currently protect online privacy and security.” - idk what else would be affected.

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