New Samsung Galaxy Debuts with Quantum Security Chipset
Samsung recently announced the launch of their new smartphone: the Samsung Galaxy A Quantum with a quantum security chipset. The unusual component is a quantum random number generator chipset from Swiss manufacturer ID Quantique. The phone is available for preorder now and is only available in South Korea on its largest wireless carrier, SK Telecom.
As advances in quantum computing frequently make headlines, consumers want to know what the fuss is all about. But calling this advancement a “quantum leap” in mobile phone technology may be overstating the case. What is quantum computing anyway? What does this new phone and its quantum chipset actually do? How does it affect business goals?
Before we dive in, recall some key facts about standard encryption methods. They rely on several assumptions, including that we can generate random numbers in secret, and that computers can multiply numbers together quickly, but are slow to un-multiply large numbers back into their prime factors. Common goals for encryption include encrypting and decrypting data in trivial time and preventing unauthorized agents from reading intercepted data. These goals were accomplished long ago in the 1970s. Keep these assumptions and goals in mind as we continue. If you need a refresher on how standard (non-quantum) encryption works, check out Numberphile’s video on this subject.
Random number generation (RNG) is an important function in cryptographic systems. But for decades, researchers have debated whether computers are capable of producing truly random numbers. Early RNG methods relied on simple sources of data already built into computers, such as the current time in milliseconds. But researchers have demonstrated that these primitive deterministic methods are possible to predict by a hostile observer, making them useless for serious encryption.
To produce truly random numbers, some Internet companies construct physical apparatuses to provide highly chaotic data sources. One whimsical example is the popular web hosting company Cloudfare, which generates random numbers with a variety of strange methods, including filming a massive wall of lava lamps.
So, what principles of quantum physics are we talking about when we say “quantum computing,” and how are those principles applied to make a quantum cryptographic system? In short, quantum computing is a field of research that is still quite young, and hence full of competing ideas. There is no standard way to make a computing system using quantum physics. In fact, until very recently most experts were extremely skeptical that anyone had accomplished quantum computation at all.
After a detailed look at the technical documents for the new chip, it is clear that general quantum computation was never a goal of IDQ’s project. Samsung’s new Galaxy A Quantum 5G smartphone is not a quantum computer. It is a beautiful new phone with a lot of features including a really good random number generator, one which due to the properties of quantum light transmission (QLT) used in this new technology, is extremely difficult, but not impossible, to hack. For much greater technical detail about how QLT is used to generate random numbers, you can read the original documents and its sources. There’s enough information here to keep you busy for weeks.
The bottom line is, the QRNG chip is much less like a quantum computer and much more like a wall of lava lamps. It is impressive, beneficial to users, and its significance should not be understated. However, it is not the advent of pocket-sized quantum computing systems, as some tech outlets may lead you to believe.
With that new understanding in mind, let’s take a crack at your most important questions.
Should I start using quantum encryption?
Yes. It’s very cool.
How powerful is quantum cryptography now?
Powerful. Quantum cryptography used in the Galaxy A Quantum 5G smartphone is analogous to non-quantum encryption, but with the added benefit that its RNG is extremely difficult to hack. The only known exploit relies on having prolonged physical access to the device.
Should I replace all my devices with ones that use quantum RNG?
No. Quantum cryptography isn’t as well-established as standard encryption methods. You shouldn’t abandon all other systems in favor of this one at significant cost.
Does quantum computing pose a threat to my security?
Yes. Recall the second assumption of encryption we described above: computers can multiply numbers together quickly, but take much longer to factor large numbers. Quantum computers may one day compute so fast, they will be able to brute-force standard encryption methods. Researchers have already begun developing new methods to respond to the advent of quantum computation. Enterprise leaders should charge their security professionals with keeping their enterprise up to date with the latest encryption technology.
Does quantum RNG protect me against quantum computer brute force attacks?
No. Quantum RNG offers no advantage that future advancements in quantum computation cannot break. It is not a future-proof solution for brute-force decryption. This is why a holistic approach to total enterprise security is so important.
Does quantum cryptography pose a threat to standard cryptography?
No. The existence of quantum cryptography poses no threat to standard encryption.
If I use quantum cryptography, can I stop worrying about getting hacked?
No. Standard encryption methods using QRNG may be theoretically unbreakable (failing a major breakthrough in quantum computing), but your security can still be compromised in other ways. Quantum encryption won’t protect you from attacks that don’t rely on predicting random numbers, such as phishing emails, scammer phone calls, ransomware, general negligence, or viruses that exploit specific bugs in operating systems or application softwares. This is why routine security assessments, personnel training, and penetration testing are vital parts of enterprise security.
In the end, quantum cryptography and quantum computing still have a long way to go before these methods become standard practices in cybersecurity. The new Samsung Galaxy with a quantum security chipset is an impressive feature that can influence future smartphone security, but the overall technology is still very new and needs to be further developed. This is why it’s important for companies to focus on optimizing their current encryption technologies and ensuring their entire security infrastructure is truly effective against all types of cyber attacks.
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