In a scientific paper titled “Factoring integers with sublinear resources on a superconducting quantum processor,” a group of Chinese researchers claimed that they could crack RSA encryptions on phones, data storage, and banking systems using quantum computing.
In their scientific paper, Chinese researchers claimed that they had factored a 48-bit integer using their technique on a quantum computer with ten qubits, but they had yet to attempt to scale it up to work on a much larger system.
A security issue, if true
The claim elicited concerns, mostly from experts in cybersecurity, information technology, and the crypto space. Still, many of these experts have described the claim as impossible. The 24 researchers also claimed that they used a quantum machine with only 372 qubits (quantum bits) when cracking the code.
Meanwhile, IBM has already stated that the most powerful quantum computer, the 433 qubit Osprey system, will be offered to customers early this year.
Computer security experts and authors have expressed fears that if the researcher ever becomes correct, it will be a major moment in the history of computer security systems.
Experts like Peter Shor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Andre Konig of Decrypt, believe that while the theory stated in the study paper appears valid, putting it into practice may be beyond today’s quantum technology capabilities.
The latest research paper makes it the second time a group of scientists has come up with such claims in less than a year.
Recall that Claus-Peter Schnorr, a German mathematician, proposed an algorithm last year that he said was a significantly more effective approach to factor huge prime numbers—essential for cracking the RSA system.
Still, his claims eventually failed to scale up the RSA algorithms.
What does this mean for crypto?
Because cryptocurrencies and blockchain have a lot to do with encryptions, concerns have also been raised about hacking Bitcoin using the “brute force” of quantum computers.
Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky said such an attack could take a long time because a brute force attack uses trial and error to guess strings like login credentials and encryption keys with the hope of finding a match, and such an attempt can be futile.
David Schwed, Chief operating officer of Halborn, a blockchain security firm, said it’s not just crypto; anything with encryption should be a concern. He, however, doubted the possibility of such capabilities by the Chinese researchers.