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Cryptographers Take On Quantum Computers

Researchers prepare for the day when quantum computers can easily crack today's codes

3 min read

Software updates, eâ¿¿mail, online banking, and the entire realm of public-key cryptography and digital signatures rely on just two cryptography schemes to keep them secure—RSA and elliptic-curve cryptography (ECC). They are exceedingly impractical for today’s computers to crack, but if a quantum computer is ever built—which some predict could happen as soon as 10 years from now—it would be powerful enough to break both codes. Cryptographers are starting to take the threat seriously, and last fall many of them gathered at the PQCrypto conference, in Cincinnati, to examine the alternatives.

Any replacement will have some big shoes to fill. RSA is used for most of our public-key cryptography systems, where a message is encoded with a publicly available key and must be decrypted with a mathematically related secret key. ECC is used primarily for digital signatures, which are meant to prove that a message was actually sent by the claimed sender. ”These two problems are like the two little legs on which the whole big body of digital signature and public-key cryptography stands,” says Johannes Buchmann, cochair of the conference and professor of computer science and mathematics at Technische Universität Darmstadt, in Germany.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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