Never say ‘never’

At our meeting with MPs last Tuesday, it was pointed out that developments in computing would inevitably render meaningless any current assurances that data was securely encrypted.

A mere three days later, the Register reports:

A Canadian start-up says it will demonstrate a working commercial quantum computer in Mountain View next week, years ahead of many experts’ predictions.

…With just the 16 qubits, the device, known as Orion, will not have the brawn to perform factoring of the extremely large numbers which underly cryptography. The number-crunching feat has IT security firms and spooks afraid their current encryption technologies will be rendered obselete when a quantum computer with hundreds of qubits arrives.

But we’re OK for now, right? Hang on a minute:

According to D-Wave CTO Dr Geordie Rose’s blog, the firm’s roadmap calls for the construction of a 1,000 qubit machine in 2008

And on the same day, Public Technology said that:

BeCrypt has provided encryption solutions to the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI).

…CSCI is now able to provide much faster and more secure access to data for mobile staff, and for those staff that occasionally need to work from home, enabling them to provide a better service to the public. Staff are now able to log on to the network securely and gain access to files from the shared areas. This means that there is less need to store files locally on the laptop and so less risk. However, should a laptop be lost or stolen, the data that is held on the computer is completely inaccessible and unintelligible.

Maybe, but for how long? Even if D-Wave’s timescale for a 1K qubit machine is a bit off, it’s only a matter of time before this – or maybe something else we haven’t even thought of yet – makes our ‘secure encryption’ as quaint as a 1986 Amstrad PC.

If you’re over 75 now, your data is probably reasonably safe. It’s children who will feel the greatest effects of the government’s current impetuous forays into data collection, and yet they are the guinea pigs for everyone else. Seems a bit back-to-front, doesn’t it?

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