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Chinese researchers are making claims that if truwouldhaten

ผู้เขียน: ที่มา:ต้นฉบับ วันที่:2023-01-23

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Chinese researchers are making claims that, if true, would threaten national security

Chinese researchers are claiming they can break modern encryption with todays quantum computers. Experts are skeptical, but the possibility remains a top U.S. national security concern.

Chinese researchers are making claims that, if true, would threaten national security

Chinese researchers are making claims that, if true, would threaten national security

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Chinese researchers are claiming they can break modern encryption with todays quantum computers. Experts are skeptical, but the possibility remains a top U.S. national security concern.

The threat of hackers piercing through the digital protections that guard state secrets - thats the sort of thing that keeps national security experts up at night. So it was news when Chinese researchers recently claimed that they could break a common encryption algorithm with an emerging technology called quantum computing. But some encryption experts are skeptical.

NPRs Jenna McLaughlin is here to explain. Hey, Jenna.

JENNA MCLAUGHLIN, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: So what exactly are these Chinese researchers claiming?

MCLAUGHLIN: So theres a brand-new paper that came out on an academic site called arXiv. The authors say that they found a method where todays very basic quantum computers could already break a very common form of modern encryption. Its honestly a really complicated paper, but the experts explained it to me like this - the authors used whats called a heuristic algorithm to try to break encryption. Thats basically a formula thats designed to solve a problem really fast by starting with an estimate and using the result to get closer to the answer.

MCLAUGHLIN: You can think of it like throwing a dart at a dart board and using that first hit to try to help you get closer to the bullseye. And all of this is scary because the U.S. government says that its adversaries - China, in particular - is collecting tons of encrypted, sensitive U.S. data in the hopes that, one day, they can use a quantum computer to decrypt it all. If this paper is right, thats a lot sooner than they thought it was.

CHANG: Wow. OK. Thats disturbing. But how possible is that, actually? Like, what are experts are saying?

MCLAUGHLIN: So first of all, its important to clarify that the website where this paper appeared, arXiv, is commonly used in the academic community, but its not peer-reviewed. Even so, experts in math and physics have taken a closer look already because of the buzz that the paper was getting. They say that its interesting in terms of incremental scientific progress, but theres basically no evidence at this point that the method would work at scale. At the end of the paper, even the researchers admitted that more work needs to be done.

CHANG: OK. So does that mean that theres no reason to worry? Like, what should be the takeaway from this paper and all of the response to it?

MCLAUGHLIN: So theres not exactly no reason to worry. Experts say that there will, indeed, come a day when quantum computers can break encryption. Its just not here yet. Its really hard to predict these kinds of breakthroughs, but experts say were probably closer to decades away from that. The real takeaway, I think, is that its really good to exercise skepticism, especially on overhyped subjects like quantum computing, particularly when geopolitics are involved.

MCLAUGHLIN: Its tough to speculate about the researchers intentions when they published, but by putting these claims out there, it had the impact of creating some fear that China is way ahead of the U.S.

CHANG: OK. But you mentioned that Chinas already stealing data and waiting to decrypt it. So is it just too late at this point to protect those secrets that theyve already stolen?

MCLAUGHLIN: It might indeed be too late to protect some of the things already stolen. But, you know, for national security officials who need to keep things secret for a really long time, theyve got to do what they can. So that includes designing algorithms that are quantum-proof. The U.S. governments already working on that, but its going to take a long time. It could also mean rethinking entirely how we store data. Some researchers think breaking files up into little pieces could help prevent an enemy from piecing them back together. You know, a lot of really smart people are working on this full-time.

CHANG: That is NPRs Jenna McLaughlin, another very smart person. Thank you so much, Jenna.

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