Quantum Advantage and Y2K Bug: Comparison

by   Lei Zhang, et al.

Quantum Computers (QCs), once they mature, will be able to solve some problems faster than Classic Computers. This phenomenon is called "quantum advantage" (or a stronger term "quantum supremacy"). Quantum advantage will help us to speed up computations in many areas, from artificial intelligence to medicine. However, QC power can also be leveraged to break modern cryptographic algorithms, which pervade modern software: use cases range from encryption of Internet traffic, to encryption of disks, to signing blockchain ledgers. While the exact date when QCs will evolve to reach quantum advantage is unknown, the consensus is that this future is near. Thus, in order to maintain crypto agility of the software, one needs to start preparing for the era of quantum advantage proactively. In this paper, we recap the effect of quantum advantage on the existing and new software systems, as well as the data that we currently store. We also highlight similarities and differences between the security challenges brought by QCs and the challenges that software engineers faced twenty years ago while fixing widespread Y2K bug. Technically, the Y2K bug and the quantum advantage problems are different: the former was caused by timing-related problems, while the latter is caused by a cryptographic algorithm being non-quantum-resistant. However, conceptually, the problems are similar: we know what the root cause is, the fix (strategically) is straightforward, yet the implementation of the fix is challenging. To address the quantum advantage challenge, we create a seven-step roadmap, deemed 7E. It is inspired by the lessons-learnt from the Y2K era amalgamated with modern knowledge. The roadmap gives developers a structured way to start preparing for the quantum advantage era, helping them to start planning for the creation of new as well as the evolution of the existent software.


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