RAND report finds that, like fusion power and Half Life 3, quantum computing is still 15 years away
Quantum computers pose an “urgent but manageable” threat to the security of modern communications systems, according to a report published Thursday by influential US RAND Corporation.
The non-profit think tank’s report, “Securing Communications in the Quantum Computing Age: Managing the Risks to Encryption,” urges the US government to act quickly because quantum code-breaking could be a thing in, say, 12-15 years.
“If adequate implementation of new security measures has not taken place by the time capable quantum computers are developed, it may become impossible to ensure secure authentication and communication privacy without major, disruptive changes,” said Michael Vermeer, a RAND scientist and lead author of the report in a statement.
Experts in the field of quantum computing like University of Texas at Austin computer scientist Scott Aaronson have proposed an even hazier timeline.
Noting that the quantum computers built by Google and IBM have been in the neighborhood of 50 to 100 quantum bits (qubits) and that running Shor’s algorithm to break public key RSA cryptosystems would probably take several thousand logical qubits – meaning millions of physical qubits due to error correction – Aaronson recently opined, “I don’t think anyone is close to that, and we have no idea how long it will take.”