Quantum Computing Would Make Today’s Encryption Obsolete – More stories by Hugo Miller July 19, 2017, 9:01 PM PDT

Switzerland’s ID Quantique says it can protect data from a growing threat, and China is a top customer.

Illustration: Oscar Bolton Green

Quantum computing offers processing power so vast it may soon make today’s supercomputers look as crude as 1980s PCs. There’s a downside—the technology might also render the most secure encryption systems obsolete, cracking codes in a matter of minutes rather than months or years. Gregoire Ribordy says he has a solution. And it’s selling fast in China.

For the past 15 years, the former University of Geneva physics professor has been developing something called quantum key distribution—a system that uses the technology to encrypt data so securely that Ribordy says it can’t be deciphered even by an advanced quantum computer. “The cybersecurity community must recognize the risks of quantum computing,” says Ribordy, a former researcher with Nikon Corp. in Tokyo. “Our challenge is to help governments and businesses be ready.”

For its first decade or so, his company, ID Quantique SA, bumped along slowly, selling its equipment primarily to academics researching the technology. Then in December, ID Quantique signed a joint-venture agreement with China Quantum Technologies, based in Hangzhou. Sales of its quantum key equipment have surged as Chinese banks, government agencies, and state-owned giants such as China Railway Corp. embrace the technology. Ribordy, who says he’s sold fewer than 100 servers to U.S. customers, predicts the growing activity in China will spur interest elsewhere. “If China’s doing it,” he says, “maybe it’s a good idea to look at why.”

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