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Math Trek

New system offers way to defeat decryption by quantum computers

11:20am, July 25, 2011

Quantum computers elicit dreams of great computational feats to come. But they also promise a nightmare: They could break today’s security codes, rendering them no more secure than a TSA-approved luggage lock.

Now, for the first time, researchers have shown a security method to be immune to the type of attack that could bring down RSA, the cryptosystem in almost universal current use.

Modern cryptography methods are generally based on some mathematical problem that is hard to solve without special information. Breaking RSA, for example, would require factoring very large numbers, a task thought to be insurmountably difficult even for supercomputers. But in 1994, mathematician Peter Shor, now of MIT, found an algorithm that a quantum computer (once one exists) could use to factor big numbers in seconds.

There’s no way of proving that a cryptosystem is impervious to all possible attacks. Still, Hang Dinh of Indiana University South Bend, Cristoph

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