Static screen shot of the CSA Y2Q Countdown Clock. Credit: CSA

Most people are aware that at some point in the future, someone will create a very powerful quantum computer that will be big enough to run Shor’s algorithm and break the RSA public key encryption by factoring a large semi-prime number. Although this is not expected in the near future because it may take something like a 20 million qubit processor to do it, it is likely to happen within the next decade or two. This will require a complete revamping of our current internet encryption infrastructure to replace legacy public key algorithms like RSA with newer techniques using either software-based Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC) or physics-based Quantum Key Distribution (QKD). The concern is that this effort will require either upgrading or replacing tens of billions of devices and such an effort will also take a decade or two to complete. So that message is that the IT community should start now on this project or start risking that their communications will be compromised in the future.

In order to emphasize the problem, the Quantum-safe Security Working Group of the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) has set a Y2Q (Years to Quantum) countdown clock to emphasize to people that they have a limited amount of time to do this conversion. They have arbitrarily set the date of April 14, 2030 as the deadline on when this process needs to be completed. Although no one knows for sure exactly when these large quantum computers will be available, they feel that setting a specific date can incentivize people to not procrastinate. The effort to upgrade the world’s IT infrastructure is reminiscent of the Y2K project to use four digit year code instead of a two digit year code which had a deadline of December 31, 1999. Estimates were that the Y2K effort cost $100 billion in the U.S. alone.

For a press release from the CSA announcing this Y2Q countdown clock, you can visit their website and see it here. And to see the real time image of the clock and find out how much time you have left, you can access it here.

March 15, 2022