Evaluating the threat posed by quantum computing to the security of online business systems

Geoffrey Harris, Adrian Gepp

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractResearchpeer-review


This presentation discusses a current issue related to the security of online systems such as cloud‐ based accounting systems, offsite access to company files and online payments. Recent experimental developments in quantum computing have once again raised the possibility that quantum computing may pose a threat to modern encryption techniques, which are the heart of online security. This presentation will evaluate the magnitude and timeliness of this threat. The presentation is appropriate to an audience who, although they do not need to be conversant with the technical details, work with systems that are taken at face value to be secure and want to gain an understanding of the robustness of the encryption systems to quantum‐based attacks. The talk begins with an overview of RSA (the most popular and widely used public‐private key encryption system) and a brief history of attempts to compromise RSA secured systems. This history demonstrates that so far RSA has indeed lived up to its promise of resisting attempts at breaching security by classic brute‐force methods. Quantum computing, however, presents new challenges. The fundamental quantum computing algorithm used in this challenge, Shor’s Algorithm (1994), will be explained in an intuitive manner. Shor’s Algorithm makes use of a Quantum Phenomenon, which is specific to one particular interpretation of Quantum Mechanics called the Copenhagen interpretation. There is, however, a competing interpretation (Bohm Mechanics) of Quantum Mechanics which, if true, has substantial implications for Shor’s algorithm and its consequent ability to compromise RSA encryption. The Copenhagen interpretation is the widely accepted philosophy developed in the 1930s, while Bohm Mechanics explains Quantum Mechanics using a Hidden Variable explanation developed in the 1950s. Whilst the Copenhagen theory allows for the successful cracking of RSA by Shor’s Algorithm, Hidden Variable theory is not as clear and furthermore suggests that RSA may be safe against attack by such Quantum Computing Algorithms. Nevertheless, regardless of which interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is correct, we demonstrate that there is a common future for cryptography and many of the long‐term implications for forensic accounting are the same. It is noted that recent encryption systems immune to Shor’s algorithm are already in wide‐spread use for securing data stored in large, public, databases and built into virtually all popular database engines. The talk concludes with a discussion of the time frames involved and the potential barriers to the widespread use of some of the most secure encryption algorithms that have been developed.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event4th Forensic Accounting Teaching and Research Symposium - Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia
Duration: 13 Oct 201614 Oct 2016


Conference4th Forensic Accounting Teaching and Research Symposium
CityGold Coast
Internet address


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