We live in a fast-paced world and everything changes at an incredibly quick rate, particularly when it comes to technology. The latest devices become obsolete overnight and the same happens with the software they run. In many cases, as with VPNs, it’s enough for these tools and services to continually provide automatic updates to complement the privacy and security protection that they offer. But what happens when something greater appears with the power to change an industry? Quantum cryptography is one such change, a method that’s still ahead of us and yet promises to obliterate what we currently consider to be the best means of security with encryption and cryptography.
The Current Standard of VPN Encryption
Essentially, encryption is what makes a VPN connection truly private. There are plenty of alternatives but the current standard is AES 256-bit, a military-grade level of encryption that is, in practical terms, impossible to crack. It would require powerful computers to brute force open an AES 256-bit cypher, not to mention an absurd amount of dedication and education the generations to follow in order to keep the work going for thousands of years to come.
Obviously, in the meantime, this technology would likely become obsolete and replaced by new, more powerful alternatives, something that the world is already getting a glimpse of, actually. Some VPNs already feature special servers in which encryption is applied twice to double its power, for instance, while other cryptography techniques are also being developed to change the current prospect of this field, too.
Quantum Cryptography, the Technology of the Future?
The whole concept of quantum mechanics is quite hard to understand, but the essential concept is such that a computer works in quantum bits – or qubits – instead of regular bits like any other computer of today. A qubit can be both a 0 and a 1 at the same time, while the conventional bit can only be one or the other. Therefore, a quantum computer is much faster than our regular machines and, as a result, it threatens the current state of encryption as it greatly shortens the time and effort needed to crack it.
Quantum computers are not yet created for domestic use, however, but rather for problem-solving purposes. The so-called D-Wave, for instance, is the most famous example already in existence, even though it still lacks the ability to break current encryption standards. However, it will be just a matter of time until it does and so, as crazy as it may sound, and so this same futuristic technology is being developed to also counter itself before then.
Quantum key distribution (QKD) promises to be a game changer as it overcomes the problem of sharing encryption keys. The standard nowadays is public key encryption, a method that requires one public key used to encode messages and another private one to decode them. In contrast, QKD establishes a shared key between two communicators and detects any third-parties trying to eavesdrop. The unique aspects of this quantum cryptography means that the produced key is guaranteed to be secure and that a snooper has no information about it, and that communication is directly aborted if no secure key is possible. And, even better, this method can’t be compromised with quantum technology.
The Future of VPNs
Public key encryption is likely to be replaced by QKD at some point, but it’s still too early to predict its implementation in the real world. The VPN industry, for instance, is always on top of the latest technologies and practices, and a good example of that is the implementation of blockchain technology to increase user privacy, a decentralized method that basically prevents a single company from holding records of their clients. Amid all the doubts it raised at first, services such as Mysterium or Privatix Network are already a reality, as are cryptocurrencies and 5G mobile data.
It’s very possible, therefore, that in the future some of the biggest VPN providers will come to replace the current 256-bit encryption with quantum technology or other form of advanced security, maybe even changing the whole concept of a ‘VPN’ as we know it. Will that be viable to the average consumer, though? At the end of the day it’ll be the price that decides it for the most of us, and we’re talking about a very complicated technology that’s only just appearing. But, then, this was the case when the first domestic computers began to hit the stores, too.
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