Can AI crack Network Encryption Protocols

First Posted: Jun 03, 2019 10:16 AM EDT

With all the talk of Google's supposed breakthrough of teaching AI to generate encryption and IBM's warning of Quantum computers' impending ability to break encryption, the jury is still out on whether AI can actually crack network encryption protocols. However, developers are getting better at figuring out how to bust through encryption codes using artificial intelligence.

When it comes to decryption, there are numerous variables and barriers to consider, most of which are difficult to overcome and so expensive that even the world's most talented hackers are incapable of generating the technology. Plus, as developers learn more about VPN encryption, there are more hurdles to overcome to decrypt virtual private networks.

Encryption/Decryption AI Systems

In concept, an AI system capable of cracking network encryption protocols automatically determines what encryption standards are in place based on preexisting algorithms. The system can then develop new algorithms based on what it has learned about the existing algorithms. This gives it the capability it needs to decrypt any encrypted data.

A decryption AI system can easily search for and detect encryption keys, associated data, and other information that it can assimilate to crack any type of encryption. In fact, a developer can encrypt a device, data, or software numerous times, and the decryption AI can still break the code. In many cases, it can break multiple layers of code.

What Does It Take to Decrypt Network Encryption Protocols?

This is where it gets tricky and super complicated to perform this level of decryption.

For AI to perform higher levels of decryption on any device or software, developers need to build a super-computer with hundreds of thousands of graphics processing units (GPUs). Each unit is operating at the same time in what is called 'batch' processing. This what IBM refers to as the Quantum Computer - AI-based technology that has the processing power of Thor, The Hulk, Captain Marvel, and Thanos all put together. The Quantum computer of this magnitude would need to contain 150 Q bits of power

How Does a Quantum Computer Work?

quantum computer can decrypt a network encryption protocol by factoring in every possible variation of the data. It first relies on all past and current encryption standards and methods used at the developmental level, then it considers all the unknown variables. Again, the reason why the quantum computer can perform this type of calculations is due to its massive processing power. The artificial intelligence utilizes the same processes as machine learning to identify and even improve encryption standards as long as its kernel runs. Every time it makes a run, it gets better at learning the encryption while calculating trillions upon trillions of possibilities for cracking the encryption.

While this process sounds simple, it is highly complex, and the technology is complicated to produce. However, the underlying factor is not complexity. Instead, it is power. The machine has to be able to produce enough power for the AI to perform all calculations. Otherwise, the artificial intelligence would not be able to operate.

What Does All This Mean for VPNs?

For now, it means that VPN subscribers can still rely on their VPN servers to secure their wired or wireless devices. Here's why:

Quantum Machines Are Not in Demand

Do quantum machines exist? Yes. Are they being used? Yes. However, the technology is not readily accessible to the masses. It is too expensive, still in beta mode, and not feasible by any means. It is the equivalent of launching the first rocket into space in 1957. While the technology does exist, few people know how to develop it, and even fewer people know how to make it work consistently on any real level.

IP Addresses: The VPN Secret Weapon

The reason why VPN providers try to host as many servers as possible is that it allows them to access more IP addresses. Having access to more IP addresses gives the VPN the ability to virtually 'relocate' any user instantly for any reason. Regardless of where the user is currently located, as long they under the protection of a VPN server, then the VPN can change the IP address.

This presents a challenge for any quantum machine because it would have to decrypt the IP address fast enough to find the user before the VPN automatically changed the IP address once again. At present, that technology doesn't exist - not even for a supercomputer.

Cracking the Tunnel is Still An Issue

One of the best features of a VPN is that it offers multilayer user-to-user security. This allows a user to send a message or data to another user without the data being compromised. First, the data is encrypted; second, it is encapsulated in a virtual tunnel. When you combine that with IP masking, it makes it difficult for any AI to locate the data, much less break into it.

So, to put this in sequence, here is what it would take for AI to 'crack' network encryption protocols.

  1. The AI locates, identifies, and isolates the user via their IP address

  2. The AI breaks through the virtual tunnel to get to the data

  3. The AI then decrypts the data

Even if the third step in the sequence is possible, the artificial intelligence would still have to find a way to get past step one and step two.

Why VPNs Still Win Out in the AI Encryption Battle

It comes down to this: breaking through a VPN to get to a user is about more than just encryption. It is also about location, identification, and breaking other impenetrable barriers. A quantum computer would need to perform multiple functions, and do so extremely fast to access any data.

At this point, that type of technology has not been developed. So, users can feel safe that, as long as they have a reputable VPN that provides adequate protection, they can surf the web, stream their favorite movies and shows, access otherwise blocked sites, and even engage in torrenting without their data or activity being hacked.

Will AI win out in the end? It is too hard to speculate at this point. One thing is for sure. As AI becomes more of a threat to security, developers will use that same AI against itself to produce more powerful protective measures for VPN users.

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