(I hope this post is not too technical, let me know if it is).

Most conventional crytography algorithms are based on mathematical problems that are hard to solve with the existing algorithm technologies and computing power. The currently most widely used of these mathematical problem is the problem of factoring a large number that has been made from the multiplication of two large prime numbers. If you can factor the large number (find the two prime numbers it was made from) you can break the code and find the key to decrypt the message.

The most notorious cryptography technology that uses this mathematical problem is RSA. RSA is a public-key cryptography system that is used everywhere, you might have heard of it before. The current size of the large number to factor is 128 bits. That’s why you hear 128-bit encryption all the time. A 128-bits number is quite hard to factorize, you need either a lot lot lot of computing power or to invent a new very clever algorithm or … build a quantum computer. Many believes quantum computers to be the next generation of computers. Although we are still far from building one, a lot of people are worried about it and a lot of research is going on about finding new ways to encrypt data (including quantum cryptography). Because as Prof. Brassard (a cryptography expert at university of montreal) said “If a quantum computer is ever built, much of the conventional cryptography will fall apart”. As more and more aspects of our life get digitalized (banking, commerce, etc…) and are secured with RSA… you can imagine the disastrous consequences that this could have on our society on a world wide scale.

This paper contains an interesting list of facts about the impact of quantum information processing on data security (first part).

For the more technicaly and mathematicaly inclined (and brave too), here’s a link to an introduction to quantum computing at the university of indiana. And here’s how RSA works and how it can be broken.

It has over been over 20 years since the quantum computer was first talked about (see David Deutsch’s paper Quantum theory, the Church-Turing principle and the universal quantum computer) till today when quantum computing is still in its early stages. It will take time before there are quantum computers, and probably longer before we can purchase one for a home machine. By then I suspect that we would be using quantum cryptography. Of course this presumes that our society will survive environmental changes long enough to get to that stage.

One of the interesting questions that arises from quantum computers (and quantum mechanics) is what is the nature reality and what about these other “universes”?

On current day issues of privacy I would recommend you have a look at Bruce Schneier’s homepage.

cheers

Henry

That is really cool! I wish I were more computer literate. I always envy those who are really into it, who will probably end up working for Cesus or CIA doing some security work. Or maybe it’s just that Hollywood glorifies those kinds of jobs, but it’s always fun to watch some tech guy (or girl) hack away at a computer and break codes, or change the traffic lights to help them escape (like in the Italian Job). It’s still difficult to make the quantum computer, because they need to find a way so that it will last and won’t break down in the atmosphere. I think it was Einstein who was unsure whether to release his findings to other researchers, because he knew that his findings may have undesireable consequences.

What type of questions are related to Information,Computer, Society . Information, computer and society is dealing with which type of questions.

Thanks and best regards

looking forward to hearing you.