How Quantum Computing Could Protect Your Next Phone

It’s nature’s safest option

Key Takeaways

  • Quantum computing has the potential to help hackers steal your data, but also keep it secure.
  • Samsung has announced the Galaxy Quantum 2, a phone with built-in quantum cryptography technology.
  • The Quantum 2 includes a chip that claims to be the world’s smallest quantum random number intended to keep data safe.
hands holding smartphone as it tries to access locked information

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Smartphones are getting quantum chips to keep them, you, and your data safe from hackers.

Samsung has announced the Galaxy Quantum 2, its second phone to feature built-in quantum cryptography technology. It includes a chip that claims to be the world’s smallest quantum random number generator, and works by capturing random noise with an LED and a CMOS image sensor. The Quantum 2 is part of the growing use of quantum technology to speed up computing and potentially make unbreakable codes.

"Quantum cryptography will be the encryption standard necessary for securing our data, communications and our devices in the future," Attila Tomaschek, a researcher at ProPrivacy, said in an email interview. "Once quantum computing becomes mainstream, existing mathematically based encryption standards will become obsolete, effectively unable to provide adequate security."

Random Numbers Keep Your Data Safe

Once quantum computing can crack ordinary codes, we could face a privacy nightmare, experts warn.

"It’s not just our photos, contact lists, location data, and messages we have to safeguard, It’s also our highly sensitive financial, health, and biometric data that we need to make sure never ends up in the wrong hands," Tomaschek said. "The amount of data we store and transmit on our smartphones daily is immense."

Binary code running out from computer calculating

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Modern cryptography uses random numbers to create codes that are difficult to break, and "good random numbers make all the difference between good cryptography and bad cryptography," Jacob Ansari, a cybersecurity expert at Schellman & Company, said in an email interview. "This phone is making use of a new way of deriving random numbers for conventional cryptographic usage, and it might prove to be superior to other ways of doing so."

But Ansari said the Quantum 2’s chip "effects are pretty far removed from what the user experiences, so it’s hard to gauge from this how mobile devices will make use of other kinds of quantum computing functions, cryptographic or otherwise."

Security of these devices, and the data they contain, is thus of utmost importance.

Manufacturers are engaged in an arms race to keep phone data safe from future quantum technology that hackers could use. Quantum computers will perform operations exponentially faster and more efficiently than current mainstream computing technology is capable of, Tomaschek said. A quantum computer easily could crack current encryption methods. 

"So we will need to rely on quantum encryption to secure our data in ways current, traditional encryption methods simply cannot," he added. "Based on the principles of quantum mechanics and its inherent randomness and unpredictability, quantum encryption essentially has the capacity to make our data and communications entirely unhackable."

Coming Soon to a Store Near You?

The Samsung Quantum 2 is scheduled to come out later this April in South Korea, but no US availability has been announced. However, some predict that phones with quantum chips will arrive in the US by the end of the year.

"Provided the new Samsung quantum crypto-ready phones are successful in the South Korean market, and given the rapidly developing nature of quantum computing, I’m guessing it won’t be too far off," Tomaschek said. "Quantum crypto will likely be making an appearance in the US before we know it."

Companies are racing to develop crypto-secure technologies aside from those in smartphones. In an email interview, Paul Lipman, CEO of Quantum Operators, pointed to Oxford’s Quantum Dice, which is pioneering embedded quantum random number generators, and Crypto Quantique, which is developing IoT quantum secure root-of-trust, based on the physics of quantum tunneling.

"We keep the most personal data, transactions, and intimate details of our lives on our smartphones," Lipman said. "Security of these devices, and the data they contain, is thus of utmost importance. The generation of truly random encryption keys is pivotal to enhanced security, and quantum is nature’s only mechanics for generating true randomness."

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