Quantum computing promises to be the most profound advance since the invention of electronic computers in the 1930s. Perhaps one could say even since the invention of Babbage’s first mechanical computer in the 1830s because quantum computing offers an fundamentally new paradigm of computing itself.
The idea of quantum computing was brought forth in 1982 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman. He proposed that the superposition principle of quantum physics could be used to create “qubits” (quantum bits) that held different states simultaneously in contrast to regular binary computers in which each bit is only ever either on or off at any point in time. This superposition phenomenon means that quantum computers can be vastly more powerful than binary computers, able to perform some types of calculations in seconds that would take years otherwise, and thus they have unprecedented ramifications for technology and society. (For more details, this excellent video from Microsoft provides a gentle introduction to the physics and potential of quantum computing.)
Today, quantum computers are becoming a reality; still very early in their development but rapidly approaching wider use. For example, IBM has just announced that it is now providing access to its research quantum computers through the cloud.
There are many ways in which quantum computing will change our lives, including its applications to machine learning and artificial intelligence, but one of its biggest near-term impacts will be that on the art of data security. Much of the cryptography used to protect today’s data are vulnerable to quantum computing-based algorithms. In 2015, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) highlighted the urgency of moving to crypto algorithms resistant to quantum computing-based attacks. (It is also interesting to note that, distinct from quantum computing, is another aspect of quantum physics called entanglement, or as Einstein deemed it “spooky action at a distance”, that is the basis of quantum cryptography which is considered unbreakable.)
Quantum computing will bring massive changes to the world of data security. For these reasons, and the everyday business advantages of a flexible approach to cryptography, it is critically important that enterprises have a clear understanding of which data is most sensitive, where that data is, and how it is used. Strong data identity is the foundation of strong data security and is the key to ensuring that, in an age of quantum computing, your enterprise can adapt quickly to rapidly changing business and security environments.