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Fujitsu: Quantum computers no threat to encryption just yet

Heavily hyped tech bound for some sort of milestone by decade end

Research conducted by Fujitsu suggests there is no need to panic about quantum computers being able to decode encrypted data – this is unlikely to happen in the near future, it claims.

Fujitsu said it ran trials using its 39-qubit quantum simulator hardware to assess how difficult it would be for quantum computers to crack data encrypted with the RSA cipher, using a Shor's algorithm approach.

Researchers estimated it would require a fault-tolerant quantum computer with approximately 10,000 qubits and 2.23 trillion quantum gates in order to crack RSA, an achievement that the quantum industry is a long way from reaching. IBM's Osprey quantum processor, announced in November, has 433 qubits.

Fujitsu said its researchers also estimate that it would be necessary for such a fault-tolerant quantum computer to work on the problem for about 104 days to successfully crack RSA.

However, before anyone gets too complacent, it should be noted IBM's Osprey has three times the number of qubits that featured in its Eagle processor from the previous year, and the company is aiming to have a 4,158-qubit system by 2025. If it continues to advance at this pace, it may well surpass 10,000 qubits before the end of this decade.

And we'd bet our bottom dollar intelligence agencies, such as America's NSA, are or will be all over quantum in case the tech manages to crack encryption. Quantum-resistant algorithms are therefore still worth the effort, even if the NSA is ostensibly skeptical of quantum computing's crypto-smashing powers.

Fujitsu said that although its research indicates the limitations of quantum computing technology preclude the possibility of it beating current encryption algorithms in the short term, the IT giant will continue to evaluate the potential impact of increasingly powerful quantum systems on cryptography security.

"Our research demonstrates that quantum computing doesn't pose an immediate threat to existing cryptographic methods," Fujitsu Distinguished Engineer and Senior Director of Data & Security Research Dr Tetsuya Izu said in a statement, but added: "We cannot be complacent either."

"The world needs to begin preparing now for the possibility that one day quantum computers could fundamentally transform the way we think about security."

The results will be presented at the 2023 Symposium on Cryptography and Information Security (SCIS 2023) held this week in Kitakyushu City, Japan.

IBM has itself been warning about the dangers posed by the potential of quantum systems, and this month published a Security in the Quantum Era report detailing the need for "quantum-safe" strategies today to maintain the integrity and security of highly sensitive data in the future.

One of the dangers is that adversaries may be harvesting and storing encrypted data now that could still be exploited if and when quantum computers become capable of cracking the cryptography used to protect them.

IBM also launched its z16 mainframe last year with support for "quantum-safe" algorithms in its Crypto Express 8S accelerator subsystem.

Fujitsu unveiled its quantum simulator last year. At launch, it was capable of handling 36-qubit quantum circuits, which required the compute power of a 64-node cluster of PRIMEHPC FX 700 servers, each based on the same 48-core A64FX Arm chip that features in the company's Fugaku supercomputer system.

The company said it plans to boost performance of the simulator to 40 qubits by April. It also plans to build its own 64-qubit quantum computer in partnership with the RIKEN scientific research institute. ®

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