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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

If and when quantum computers are developed, they will likely be able to break any cryptography standard in use today.

Why it matters: Governments and companies need to immediately begin future-proofing their online security against coming quantum computers, which will be exponentially faster than current technology.

A recent report from the RAND Corporation laid out a worrying scenario for governments, companies and anyone who has something they want to keep secret on the internet — which is all of us.

  • Even the most secure encryption in use today could theoretically be broken by quantum computers when they're developed in the future, according to Michael Vermeer, a physical scientist at RAND and the author of the report.
  • That's because quantum computers will be able to use quantum physics to solve problems classical computers never could — including math problems that underlie cryptography.
  • Vermeer estimates that such quantum computers likely won't be developed for 12 years or longer, which gives governments and the private sector some time to quantum-proof their internet security.

The catch: There's a risk to waiting, however. Vermeer lays out a scenario where spies or cyber criminals today intercept messages or security credentials.

  • Right now, there's nothing they can do with their catch, as current computers would be unable to break encryption. But quantum computers in the future will, and if they hold onto those intercepted messages long enough, the bad guys would be able to use their quantum computing to finally read what they caught — with potentially devastating consequences.
"It's catch now and exploit later. The costs will be less and the disruption will be less if we act on this now."
— Michael Vermeer

Go deeper

Biden administration to lift travel ban for fully vaccinated international travelers

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced on Monday that the Biden administration will allow fully vaccinated travelers from around the world to enter the U.S. beginning in November.

Why it matters: The announcement comes as President Biden seeks commitments from countries to donate vaccines to the global COVAX initiative. He is expected to host a COVID summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week, and many of the countries attending have expressed frustration with the travel ban.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Gen Z breaks into VC

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When Meagan Loyst joined VC firm Lerer Hippeau, less than two years out of Boston College, she was still living with her parents. She had virtually no online brand presence, and the pandemic made it impossible to build a professional network via in-person meetings.

Why it matters: Loyst wasn't alone. Venture firms have accelerated hiring in line with record deal activity, often seeking younger investors who can spot trends that fly below the radar (or intrinsic understanding) of older partners.

White House aims to protect workers from extreme heat

Two pear pickers in Hood River, Ore. on Aug. 13. Photo: Michael Hanson/AFP via Getty Images

The White House announced a slew of actions Monday, including the start of a rule-making process at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to protect American workers from extreme heat.

Driving the news: The U.S. just had its hottest summer on record, with triple-digit-temperatures killing hundreds in the Pacific Northwest and exposing outdoor workers to dangerous conditions.