1180 Cryptography Is the Specialty of MathematiciansAfter leaving the Jinling Institute for Advanced Study, Director Li did not stay in Jinling for long, he immediately rushed back to Beijing.
He spent two full days visiting the top quantum computing experts in major semiconductor research institutes in Beijing and vaguely consulted them about the security aspects of quantum computing technology.
Inside an office at the Microelectronics Research Center.
After listening to Director Li’s explanation and concerns regarding the security risks of quantum computing technology, Director Wu Jiancheng, who was in his seventies, smiled and rejected the idea.
“Your worries are unnecessary. In theory, quantum computers do pose a threat to the security of asymmetric encryption algorithms, but we are far away from this technology.
“So far, even the most advanced quantum computers can only reach 20 qubits or so. Google’s D-Wave computer is the industry leader, and they have only achieved 80 qubits. But that thing isn’t as impressive as it sounds. Instead of using quantum gates to control qubits, it uses quantum annealing algorithms as a shortcut. Even traditional supercomputers have better performance… It’s quite a controversy in the academic community.
“Regardless of whether it’s a true quantum computer with more than 20 qubits or a pseudo quantum computer with more than 80 qubits, it will still be difficult to crack modern encryption technology. Take the most popular RSA encryption algorithm as an example. Due to the complexity of the prime factorization problem, there is nothing a quantum computer with less than 200 qubits can do.”
Director Li said cautiously, “What do you mean there’s nothing it can do?”
Director Wu Jiancheng said, “The cracking time will take at least a year. This means that even if someone has a quantum computer with two hundred qubits, it will take them more than a year to crack your bank account password. And if you make any changes to the encryption key, they would have to start all over again.”
A public key wasn’t a unique, one-time code. When either of the two parties assessed that there might be a security risk, they could change the public key at any time.
Seeing how Director Li was still worried, Wu Jiancheng sighed and said, “The development of quantum technology is slow. When we truly master quantum computers, we will develop the necessary encryption algorithms. There really is no need to worry too much about this right now!”
“But what if…” Director Li paused for a second and continued, “If… quantum technology rapidly develops, and we or our enemies suddenly master quantum computing technology.”
“That is impossible,” Director Wu Jiancheng said without hesitation. He interrupted Director Li and said, “There is no way the technology can rapidly improve! It takes time for any new technology to mature. This is a linear process, not exponential. Especially since scientific research is now focused around teamwork, making progress even slower and more difficult.
“If you think that it’s possible to have a quantum computer breakthrough tomorrow, then you would have to first solve the problems of decoherence and noise processing! I can give you the latest research papers, but none of them have found a solution to these problems!”
Seeing how confident Director Wu was, Director Li felt a little awkward.
He wanted to tell him the truth, but he had to keep it a secret for now. He didn’t want to be the one who leaked this classified information.
“I’m just saying this hypothetically. What if other people are hiding their research results?”
Seeing how Director Li was still stubbornly obsessed with this “fantasy”, Director Wu Jiancheng didn’t want to argue anymore. He nodded reluctantly and said, “Yes, it’s possible a quantum computer can fall out of the sky tomorrow.
“Then, it will threaten our information security.”
Director Li finally felt relieved. However, his relief was soon replaced by panic.
I knew it, my worries are justified!
Fortunately, I still have time to salvage this…
After visiting the research institutes, Director Li went straight back to his office at night.
He spent another day writing out a report. He then took this report to the high-level government department.
When he stood at the doorway of the familiar office, the president sitting behind a mahogany table was meticulously reading a letter in his hand.
For some reason, Director Li had a weird feeling about this letter.
He knocked on the door and walked in.
When the president saw Director Li walking in, he smiled and put down the letter in his hand. He then said warmly, “Oh, hello there.”
“Yeah… I have to report to you about something.”
Director Li nodded and walked forward. He said in a serious manner, “Two days ago, when I visited Jinling, Academician Lu brought us another gift.”
“If it’s a gift, why are you so serious?”
The president smiled and handed the letter to Director Li.
“Read this first.”
Director Li took the letter from the president.
He glanced at the letter and had a moment of realization. He smiled and handed back the letter.
“It seems like Professor Lu has thought this through carefully.”
“Yeah,” the president smiled and said, “it’s our honor to have such a great scholar.”
After a pause, he spoke in a more official manner.
“Tell me what you think about this letter.”
Director Li pondered for a while before saying, “My suggestion is to keep it confidential for now.”
The president asked, “Why?”
“Because even though we have made a breakthrough in quantum computing technology, just like Professor Lu warned us in his letter, we don’t have an encryption algorithm that can handle this kind of decryption power.”
Director Li paused for a second and watched the president’s reaction.
When the president nodded, Director Li felt relieved, and he continued, “My suggestion is to let the Chinese Academy of Sciences reveal a small part of the breakthrough so that the industry can prepare to handle this advanced technology. After all, if Professor Lu was the one announcing to the world that he was working on quantum technology…”
Director Li had a smile on his face.
“I’m afraid the world will start to panic.”
The president nodded thoughtfully.
It would be fine if the technology was progressing slowly.
Once the technology matured, society would have already adapted to the changes in a subtle way.
But if they were to suddenly announce that they had achieved a 500-qubit quantum computer, it would be equivalent to announcing that all encryption technology was obsolete.
This would impact finance and other industries that relied on information security. It was like throwing an atomic bomb into the digital world. Society would have to find a way to adapt to this drastic change.
Someone might be able to withdraw all the money from the banks or even terminate all online transactions…
After all, Professor Lu definitely had the capabilities to make this breakthrough…
There was no doubt that society would not be able to react fast enough.
After all, people would believe everything that came out of this scholar’s mouth.
After pondering for a long time, the president said, “We can’t keep this a secret forever. We have to consider how Academician Lu feels. The risks brought by new technologies have to be taken seriously, but preventing the birth of new technologies is not preferable.”
“I think so too.” Director Li nodded and said, “So, my suggestion is to let the Chinese Academy of Sciences release some hints. Then artificially create public enthusiasm regarding quantum computing technology.”
The president: “What else?”
Director Li: “We should do what Academician Lu proposed! We have to find an encryption algorithm that is not crackable, not even for a quantum computer! Once we find this algorithm, there will be no risks surrounding quantum computers, and we can integrate this technology into our society!”
The president nodded with approval.
“Good idea! So… Who do you think should be in charge of finding this algorithm?”
Director Li looked at the president’s gaze and felt helpless.
It was obvious that the president already had a candidate in mind.
“Information encryption is a mathematics field, and Academician Lu is the top mathematician in our country. Moreover, he was also the one that made a breakthrough in quantum computers. No one understands the importance of this better than him. His ‘reputation’ alone will make people feel more secure.
“I propose for Professor Lu to be in charge.”
The president smiled and said, “Good idea, I’ll write a letter to Academician Lu and appoint him to complete this important task!
“As for the rest, do as you see fit.”
Director Li felt a huge amount of pressure on him, but he still nodded seriously and said, “Yes, sir!”