Can Google now guess your password in under 4 minutes?

November 12, 2019 | Bob Covello

In a recent story that appeared on multiple news sites, as well as the Google AI Blog, it was announced that Google has achieved “Quantum Supremacy” with its 54-Qubit processor, named “Sycamore”.  This is a monumental leap forward in computing capabilities.  (Yes, I had to resist calling it a quantum leap forward, because that does not nearly sum up this accomplishment).  This is huge!  The question exactly is, how huge?

What exactly do you know about quantum computing? After watching this video, produced by IBM and WIRED, I realized that I know about as much as a 15-year old child.  Sad, but true.  My knowledge of quantum supremacy is equally lacking.

Google is asserting that this quantum chip can solve a computational task in 200 seconds, whereas, it would take a classical computer 10,000 years.  There are two amazing thoughts being proposed here, and a third not-so-amazing ponderance.

First, trying to understand the reality of 10,000 years is almost beyond human comprehension.  The humans of Stonehenge existed 5,000 years ago.  The humans of 10,000 years ago were just exiting the Stone Age.  Imagine those humans who roamed the Earth 10,000 years ago trying to solve a riddle, and that riddle only gets solved today.  10,000 years is an amazing temporal, as well as intellectual distance.

Second, did you realize that the computer on which you are reading this article is now a “classical” computer?  If this was an aptitude test, the answer to the analogy section would be: Your computer is to Mozart as the Google computer is to the latest Rap artist. 

Third, what does this all mean to the average person?  Let’s consider password strength.  Does this new super-computing power mean that there is a computer that can crack your extremely complex password in under 4 minutes? 

As I have stated in previous posts, if you are still using a password governed by rules that were devised in 1985, (minimum of 8-characters, upper-case, lower-case, numbers, special characters) you might as well be living in the stone age.  Even a classical computer is capable of cracking an 8-character password in less than a few minutes.  Now, however, even a password such as Gr8tpassword is trivial for most home machines to crack.

Fortunately, as Doctors Gershon and Girvin mention in the video, the ability of the quantum computer to crack passwords is still many years away, as is its ability to break the classical encryption algorithms.  Regardless of that, you can take action right now by doing these simple steps to make sure that your password is secure enough to withstand the quantum apocalypse:

Wishing you the best in password supremacy.

Bob Covello

About the Author: Bob Covello, Guest Blogger

Bob Covello (@BobCovello) is a 20-year technology veteran and InfoSec analyst with a passion for security topics. He is also a volunteer for various organizations focused on advocating for and advising others about staying safe and secure online.

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