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Quantum Computing and Cloud Storage: those clouds are starting to look ominous…

I’ve been talking about the opportunities / challenges / threats of both quantum computing and cloud storage on and off for a few years now – and it looks like things are starting to happen on both fronts… which is both exciting, and utterly terrifying.

Let’s start with Quantum Computing. For those who came in late, I first posted about Quantum computing three years ago, with my most recent post being made earlier this year. (NB: There’s some great primer videos about Quantum Computing and how it works on TIME’s website with a more in-depth article being posted on WIRED’s website last year).

Moving back to the present, the reason for the quantum leaps in my excitement levels (pun definitely intended)  is the latest developments that have been happening both at D-Wave, and at Google.

D-Wave is a company I’ve been keeping my eye on for a while, but I hadn’t blogged about it before, because I (like every other industry observer) wasn’t sure if D-Wave was the real quantum deal or not – no one was really sure if these processors really were using super-positioned electrons as logic bits (see the above linked primers for a detailed explanation of what this means).

Anyway – there’s been a a few announcements recently that have my qubit-sensitive ears all a tingle.

Firstly, D-Wave recently announced the commercial release of a 1000+ qubit (supposedly) system, their most powerful unit yet.

Secondly, Google apparently has already acquired one of these latest D-Wave units earlier this year (Google acquired one of D-Wave’s older 512-qubit systems last year and have been running tests on it ever since).

Thirdly, apparently Google are going to make a ‘watershed’ quantum computing announcement this coming December. Google (like most tech companies) make announcements of new technology all the time… but for them to say specifically a ‘watershed’ announcement in Quantum computing in particular… well that’s a pretty bold move on their part:  if this announcement isn’t a genuine watershed moment in the field, they they’re going to look pretty stupid. The release doesn’t say whether or not they are referring to D-Wave or some other Quantum Computing research, but given Q-Wave has a 10 year head start on most of its competitors patents-wise, most likely the announcement will be about D-Wave in some form or another.

The US government research center at Los Alamos has already ordered themselves one of these new D-Wave systems for further research and “national security” reasons. And of course when I say national security,  I really mean cryptography – which is what these qubit-enabled computers are currently best at after all… which brings me nicely to the second half of this post, which is all about good-old cloud data storage.

For the record,  cloud storage is nothing new – its a technology that’s been around as long as the internet itself… it’s only very recently that cloud storage (aka: file transfer protocol) has gotten consumer-savvy, sexy and cryptographically-secure during transmission, and thus morphed into cloud storage as the average person knows it today.

Apart from the previously-stated threat to cloud storage that Quantum computers will eventually present, there’s been another spanner thrown in the works, in that the EU has taken serious umbrage with the data security and privacy standards set by US law.  Read the linked article to see why this might affect us here…and then also ask yourself what exactly is social media if not cloud storage for your most private information.

Come to think of it – I’m trying really hard to think of a popular social media or cloud-storage platform (in this country) that doesn’t have its corporate HQ in the US… and I’m coming up a blank: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Vimeo, LinkedIn, Pintrest, Instagram, Google +, Drop-Box, Google Drive, iTunes, OneDrive, Four-Square, MySpace, Flickr, Steam, DeviantArt, Bebo, Patreon, Tumblr… all of them based in the US and bound by US data privacy laws.

I’l say it again folks, because its not just paranoia – cloud-based storage of private information, is only a good idea if your data is encrypted and protected.

And if the announcement Google make on December 8 is what I think it will be, and that their tests show the D-Wave Quantum computer is the real deal… then I strongly urge you to do the same as me, and start winding back on the amount of sensitive personal and business data you keep in data-centers located within US jurisdictions – and fast!

I’ll leave you with a sobering thought, and an incredible quote: Part of the current justification people have for accepting their internet-enabled reduction in privacy is that “there is simply too much data,  from too many people, for any one person, organisation or government to keep track of it all”… and once upon a time that might have been true.

But according to Dr David Deutsch of Oxford University:

“Quantum Computers have the potential to solve problems that would take a classical (ie: normal) computer longer than the age of the universe to solve.”

In my opinion, online cloud storage only has between three to seven years left of reliable data security via heavy-duty encryption. After that, all bets are off; encryption alone will NOT offer you enough protection going forward.