The future of computing is quantum computers, a new kind of machine that will be able to do calculations in completely different ways from the computers we are used to. This will open up new doors for research, technological development and deep learning, but will also mean a shift in the way computers communicate securely between themselves.
Specifically, quantum computers will be able to break through the encryption systems we currently use to communicate securely over the internet. This means that bank transactions, data transfers and private communications could all become easily accessible to someone with a quantum computer.
The challenge for researchers in the field of cryptography is to find new ways of encrypting internet communications, ways that are resistant to quantum computers. Dr Thomas Plantard from the University of Wollongong is working to understand a new kind of cryptography we might use for this, based on large lattices. Lattices are large grids of numbers, and will be a key part of future encryption processes.
Dr Plantard uses NCI's supercomputing resources to test the various ways that lattice problems can be solved by quantum computers, alongside standard computers. By tweaking the variables and optimising his codes, he can find a lattice size that will be suitably resistant to quantum computer solving. A bigger lattice is better, but if it is too big then the encryption and decryption process becomes too hard for the devices on either end of the communication to handle.
That is where high-performance computing can help his research: it gives him practical results that can help him understand the theory underlying his codes. He says, "The next few years will be crucial for the development of these quantum-resistant systems. We have to do the work now so that we can implement these solutions before quantum computers become more common."
While still in early development, quantum computers will have a big impact on certain sectors of the research-computing world. Getting ahead of them in designing security systems is critical in maintaining the secure communications we are used to today.