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QUANTUM INTERNET AND CYBERSECURITY: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

The internet has greatly impacted how we live but it is apparently a flawed one as evidenced by the ever-increasing hacking attempts. Many individuals have fallen victims to cyber-attacks, with big payoffs for those criminals who manage to find a way to exploit vulnerabilities. However, advances in technology have brightened the possibility of the emergence of a new internet (known as Quantum Internet) that promises secure movement of data more completely than ever before.

What is a Quantum Internet?

The quantum internet uses photon-based communication systems to transfer and protect large volumes of data across immense distances at a rate that exceeds the speed of light. They are more reliable because they use the quantum properties of photons rather than computer code, which can be easily manipulated or analyzed to spot vulnerabilities.

In other words, the development of the quantum internet is going to change the rules of how the internet is built to insulate it from the influence of hackers. The breakthrough will also signal the dawn of a new era, in which we can all enjoy a safer, more secure internet. Because of the many potential benefits it offers, building the quantum internet is a key ambition for many countries around the world.

The discussion about the quantum internet has been on for decades as the notion is widely considered an exciting mix of science fiction and scientific possibility, but the idea is no more in theory as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently published the first blueprint of its kind, laying out a step-by-step plan towards its actualization. Even more, research about its development is ongoing in different academic laboratories across the world.

Will the quantum internet replace our current infrastructure?

One of the commonly asked questions about the quantum internet is whether it will replace our current internet infrastructure. While it can be hard to give a definite answer to the question, experts predict that the regular internet will continue to exist for a long time.

It is expected that large organizations will adopt quantum internet to aid cybersecurity and protection of sensitive data but also that individual consumers will continue to use the classical internet (which we now use) – at least for a few years.

How will the quantum internet affect cybersecurity?

The quantum internet is a revolutionary technology that offers a number of advantages. Here are four major benefits of the quantum internet

  • Speed: The quantum internet is a game-changing technology in that it aids the transmission of large data sets at a very fast speed. With entanglement, communication can happen instantly across arbitrarily large distances since acting on one entangled qubit will have an instant and measurable impact on the other.
  • Controlled access: Another advantage of the quantum internet is that it allows for controlled access. Because it uses photons rather computer codes, the technology requires encrypted keys to interpret data. In other words, when a quantum computer receives data, it must use those keys to decode the data, thus adding an extra layer of security to prevent breaches.
  • Multi-level communication: Another benefit of the quantum internet is that it enables different computers to receive and interpret photon-based information transferred from the sender. At the moment, quantum systems used in laboratories are successfully experimenting with 50-100 computers, with a view towards increasing the number in the coming days. With this, multiple systems can securely receive and decode extremely sensitive files.
  • Decreased vulnerability: Perhaps, the biggest advantage of the quantum internet is that it makes it impossible to eavesdrop on a quantum conversation. It reduces the risk of a data breach since an incident of interference of any encoded message will immediately change the content of the message.

Are there any drawbacks to the quantum internet?

While the quantum internet is regarded as a highly advanced and safe network, there are still some cracks that need to be fixed.

  • Human error: As with all secure communications, the biggest issue is not the hardware or software but humans who operate them on either end. The quantum internet requires a controlled environment and when this is not available, the receiver systems won’t be able to decode the information. The right environment here comprises mini systems in different institutes under close monitoring, which may not always be feasible.
  • Decreased accuracy: When there’s an increased use of available photons for the expansion of network connections, it may lead to end users accepting slightly less accurate versions of photons, thus downgrading the security check that occurs.

These issues may turn a robust and secure technology such as the quantum internet into something that could become vulnerable with attack.

Could the quantum internet also arm hackers?

The ultimate goal of the quantum internet is to create a network of full-connected quantum computers with capabilities to solve complex problems faster. Quantum computing offers incredible opportunities that will help organizations improve data protection as well as process information and accurately. However, there are concerns that it may be the end of security in that it may make encryption useless.

Fortunately, this threat, so far, is hypothetical. Although there are quantum computers in existence today, they are incapable of breaking any commonly used encryption methods. It is estimated that it would take a massive quantum power of 4,000 qubits to break today’s encryption keys while quantum computers today have the computing power of just about 50 qubits.

The good news is that before superior quantum computers are developed, we will likely have better encryption methods as research into quantum-safe encryption algorithms are being carried out by different companies including Google and Microsoft. Therefore, it’s unlikely that the quantum internet will ever smash through encryption standards relied on today to threaten the security of all digital information and communication since the algorithms will protect businesses from even the most powerful computers.

Wrap-up

Cybersecurity is worrisome and crucial for everyone. Quantum internet offers a lot of promise as it is expected to reduce online security threats in the future.  While it might take a few years for it to be fully developed, it will no doubt lead to a totally secure and convenient internet for us all.