Tag: Y2Q

Y2Q and You


Chances are, you’ve at least somewhat concerned about your privacy, especially your digital privacy.  Chances are, you’re right to be.  Every day, it seems, there are more reports about data beeches, cyberattacks, and selling or other misuse of confidential/personal data.  We talk about privacy, but we’re failing to adequately protect it. But chances are you’re not worried nearly enough.

Y2Q is coming. 

That is, I must admit, a phrase I had not heard of until recently. If you are of a certain age, you’ll remember Y2K, the fear that the year 2000 would cause computers everywhere to crash.  Business and governments spent countless hours and huge amounts of money to prepare for it. Y2Q is an event that is potentially just as catastrophic as we feared Y2K would be, or worse. It is when quantum computing reaches the point that will render our current encryption measures irrelevant.

The trouble is, unlike Y2K, we don’t know when Y2Q will be.  Some experts fear it could be before the end of this decade; others think more the middle or latter part of the 2030’s.  But it is coming, and when it comes, we better be ready.

Without getting deeply into the encryption weeds – which I’m not capable of doing anyway – most modern encryption relies on factoring unreasonably large numbers – so large that even today’s supercomputers would need to spend hundreds of years trying to factor.  But quantum computers will take a quantum leap in speed, and make factoring such numbers trivial. In an instant, all of our personal data, corporations’ intellectual property, even national defense secrets, would be exposed. 

“Quantum computing will break a foundational element of current information security architectures in a manner that is categorically different from present cybersecurity vulnerabilities,” warned a report by The RAND Corporation last year.

“This is potentially a completely different kind of problem than one we’ve ever faced,” Glenn S. Gerstell, a former general counsel of the National Security Agency, told The New York Times.  “If that encryption is ever broken,” warned mathematician Michele Mosca in Science News, “it would be a systemic catastrophe. The stakes are just astronomically high.”

The World Economic Forum thinks we should be taking the threat very seriously.  In addition to the uncertain deadline, it warns that the solutions are not quite clear, the threats are primarily external instead of internal, the damage might not be immediately visible, and dealing with it will need to be an ongoing efforts, not a one-time fix.

Even worse, cybersecurity experts fear that some bad actors – think nation-states or cybercriminals – are already scooping up troves of encrypted data, simply waiting until they possess the necessary quantum computing to decrypt it.  The horse may be out of the barn before we re-enforce that barn. 

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