In the twenty years since Shor’s discovery, the theory of quantum algorithms has developed significantly. Quantum algorithms achieving exponential speedup have been discovered for several problems relating to physics simulation, number theory, and topology. Nevertheless, the list of problems admitting exponential speedup by quantum computation remains relatively small. In contrast, more modest speedups have been developed for broad classes of problems related to searching, collision finding, and evaluation of Boolean formulae. In particular, Grover’s search algorithm proffers a quadratic speedup on unstructured search problems. While such a speedup does not render cryptographic technologies obsolete, it can have the effect of requiring larger key sizes, even in the symmetric key case. See Table 1 for a summary of the impact of large-scale quantum computers on common cryptographic algorithms, such as RSA and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). It is not known how far these quantum advantages can be pushed, nor how wide is the gap between feasibility in the classical and quantum models.
The question of when a large-scale quantum computer will be built is complicated and contentious. While in the past it was less clear that large quantum computers are a physical possibility, many scientists now believe it to be merely a significant engineering challenge. Some experts even predict that within the next 20 or so years, sufficiently large quantum computers will be built to break essentially all public key schemes currently in use .
“Post-quantum cryptography should not be conflated with quantum cryptography (or quantum key-distribution), which uses properties of quantum mechanics to create a secure communication channel. This is only concerned with post-quantum cryptography.”
It has taken almost 20 years to deploy our modern public key cryptography infrastructure. It will take significant effort to ensure a smooth and secure migration from the current widely used cryptosystems to their quantum computing resistant counterparts. Therefore, regardless of whether we can estimate the exact time of the arrival of the quantum computing era, we must begin now to prepare our information security systems to be able to resist quantum computing.