Will new discoveries in quantum computing spell the end for hackers?
Researchers at Ottawa University play hackers at their own game to develop hack-proof quantum computing networks.
Computer hackers are a huge headache for businesses and individuals alike, causing damage to computers and networks, stealing sensitive data, breaching privacy, and costing companies money, time and wasted resources.
However, by playing hackers at their own game, researchers at the University of Ottawa in Canada may have come up with a solution to this ever-present problem.
Traditional computers, which operate using ones and zeros, are themselves tricky to protect from hackers. Unlike traditional computers, however, quantum computer networks can simultaneously hold multiple states beyond zero and one, making potential hacking threats even more difficult to detect and neutralise.
A team of scientists at the University of Ottawa decided to tackle this issue by becoming hackers themselves and building the world’s first high-dimensional quantum computing cloning machine capable of intercepting secure quantum messages.
With traditional computing networks, hackers are able to copy information and replicate it exactly. In contrast, it was previously thought that quantum computing systems offered perfectly secure transmissions. This was largely due to the perception that information transmitted through quantum networks could not be copied exactly, resulting in the original data becoming altered or damaged – and thus negating the efforts of the hacker.
However, this experiment changed all that when the researchers discovered a way of successfully copying the photons that transmit information across the quantum network.
As well as throwing doubt on the supposed security of quantum networks, the data extrapolated from the experiment also furnished the scientists involved with some important clues on how to protect quantum computing networks against potential hacking threats.
One of the authors of the study, Frederic Bouchard explained,
“What we found was that when larger amounts of quantum information are encoded on a single photon, the copies will get worse and hacking even simpler to detect. We were also able to show that cloning attacks introduce specific, observable noises in a secure quantum communication channel.”
He added, “Ensuring photons contain the largest amount of information possible and monitoring these noises in a secure channel should help in strengthening quantum computing networks against potential hacking threats.”
A computer revolution
The scientists who conducted the research are hopeful that their work can be used to further study quantum communication and potentially secure the next-generation of computers from possible hacking attacks.
If and when these developments are rolled out, they could have a significant impact – enabling people and businesses to work more securely without the fear of data breaches or malicious attacks. Hack-proof computers will also have implications for the IT support industry. With fewer opportunities for hackers, users are likely to experience fewer problems, leading to a reduced reliance on IT support companies .
While these developments are undoubtedly exciting, it is likely to be a while until we see hack-proof quantum computers on the mass market. In the meantime, there are steps individuals and companies can take – such as installing firewalls, antivirus and anti-spyware software, checking the security settings of browsers, and using complex difficult to guess passwords – to ensure their networks and data remain protected.