Quantum computers could make encryption a thing of the past, but 15 contenders are trying to prove they have what it takes to safeguard your data.
Many of the things you do online every day are protected by encryption so that no one else can spy on it. Your online banking and messages to your friends are likely encrypted, for example—as are government secrets. But that protection is under threat from the development of quantum computers, which threaten to render modern encryption methods useless.
Quantum machines work in a fundamentally different way from the classical computers we use today. Instead of using traditional binary code, which represents information with 0s and 1s, they use quantum bits, or qubits. The unusual properties of qubits make quantum computers far more powerful for some kinds of calculations, including the mathematical problems that underpin much of modern encryption.