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Quantum calculates this — mathematicians build code to launch the toughest cyber attacks

by Washington State University

Mathematicians at Washington State University have devised a secret code capable of preventing the phenomenal hacking power of a quantum computer.

Using high-level number theory and encryption technology, the researchers modified the infamous old encryption, called the replica code, to create an online security system that is better prepared for future requirements.

The results were recently published in The Fibonacci Quarterly.

Quantum computers are close by

Quantum computers operate at the subatomic level and theoretically provide processing power that is millions if not billions of times faster than silicon-based computers. Several companies are working to develop quantum computers, such as Google.

Internet security is not like a quantum computer, said Nathan Hamlin, director and director of the WSU Mathematics Learning Center. It can lead to future problems in online transactions, from buying a book on Amazon to sending an email.

Hamlin said quantum computers would have no trouble cracking existing security codes that rely on public key encryption to protect exchanges.

In short, public key code uses one public “key” for encryption and another private “key” for decryption. The system is based on impossibly large numbers of factors and has so far done a good job of keeping computers safe from hackers.

However, quantum computers can take these large amounts into account quickly, Hamlin said. But problems like back code slow them down.

Fortunately, many of the major data breaches of recent years are due to employee negligence or bribery and not to cracking the public key encryption code, he said.

New public key code

To protect future online information, Hamlin and retired mathematics professor William Webb turned to the long-abandoned stair code. To raise it to the quantum level — and possibly use it as a new type of public key encryption — the researchers first designed new numbering systems for the code.

“We used alternative ways to represent numbers,” Hamlin said.

In fact, they created new digital systems that are much more complex than society’s daily decimal and binary systems.

“Using very complex series of numbers, we produced a new version of the backpack code that can’t be broken by conventional cyber-attack methods,” Webb said.

As a result, Hamlin and Webb believe that the redirected backpack code could provide a viable alternative to encrypting a public key with quantum computing.

Parallel code

The backpack problem is at least a theoretical puzzle from 1897 that is very difficult to solve in its most common form.

“Basically, it asks if you have one big number (backpack) and a lot of small numbers (objects), what is the subset of small numbers (or objects) that perfectly fills the backpacks? The concept was used to create a code called a backpack code,” Webb explained.

“Parallel code was originally proposed as a public key encryption tool in the 1970s, but it broke down in two different ways and people lost interest in it,” he said.

Webb’s idea to take it out of stock was initially an intellectual practice.

“The backpack is simple, stylish code, but it was broken,” Webb said. “We were wondering if it could be fixed and redesigned to be safe. The challenge was fascinating.”

Hamlin said he is making fixes at a fundamental level in the code that replaced many of its weaknesses. As a result, it will prevent a greater number of cyber attacks, including those that use bottom subtraction, which is one of the decoding methods used to break the code of the original backpack, he said.

“Basic subtraction is a big hammer to use against this code, and after testing, we think it’s protected against this type of attack and would provide an alternative code for quantum computing,” Hamlin said.

Webb said while it still needs outside testing, the revamped backpack code is a promise to make future online computer stores significantly more secure.

You need a public key code virtually every time you want to send secure messages over the Internet. This is another candidate for useful code,” he said.

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