Your Chrome browser could soon be safe from quantum attacks

8 Jul 2016

Google’s developers regularly update the Chrome browser with new security features, and now the have revealed they are working on making it secure from attacks by highly-advanced quantum computers.

Quantum computers remain a cool, science fiction-sounding concept because, in reality, a practical, everyday quantum computer is still far off from entering a major corporation, let alone a person’s home.

For those unfamiliar with the technology, quantum computers are based on the power of a qubit – which can be a one, zero or both at the same time – in a state referred to as a superposition, which allows them to compute up to 100-times faster than current binary computers.

Hypothetical protection

Just imagine a cyberattack instigated by a machine vastly more powerful than anything on the planet, and then you begin to see why Google has decided to enhance its browser with quantum-computer-protected code.

In a blog post, Google’s developers have described this as a process of experimentation, given that most black hat hackers out there do not have access to such computing power, with only Google itself and other companies like IBM, Microsoft and Intel having large-scale computers.

“A hypothetical, future quantum computer would be able to retrospectively decrypt any internet communication that was recorded today, and many types of information need to remain confidential for decades,” Google’s developers said.

A New Hope

“Thus, even the possibility of a future quantum computer is something that we should be thinking about today.”

To test quantum-protected technology, a small number of Chrome connections between desktop Chrome and Google’s servers will use a post-quantum key-exchange algorithm – called New Hope – in addition to the standard elliptic-curve key-exchange algorithm.

Both will work in tandem as, Google explained, a flawed quantum-protected algorithm will not be much good against conventional cyberattacks.

Also, New Hope is unlikely to be the de facto standard when, or if, quantum computers become more commercially available, with plans to shelve the algorithm after two years of experimentation.

“While it’s still very early days for quantum computers, we’re excited to begin preparing for them, and to help ensure our users’ data will remain secure long into the future,” Google said.

Chrome developer version image via dennizn/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic