Organisations are demonstrating the potential of quantum but it’s not without risk
In association with CyberHive
If you haven’t heard about quantum computers yet, you may have been spending too much time in the server room, but you will be forgiven if you have missed the numerous recent news articles demonstrating the pace of advancements in quantum computing and just how close we are to them becoming reality. And the answer is ‘sooner than you think’.
The technology giants we are familiar with today such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and IBM are investing hugely in this revolutionary technology, alongside an increasing multitude of innovative well-funded start-ups. But why bother?
Why are quantum computers so important?
Quantum computers work by overcoming the binary constraints of classical computers, encoding information into ‘qubits’. In quantum computing, a qubit is a sub-atomic particle comparable to the ‘bit’ in traditional computing i.e. the smallest piece of information that a computer can operate on. Information is stored and read from a qubit using quantum mechanics.
While todays’ CPUs can only perform one operation on a bit at a time, a quantum computer can perform multiple operations on a qubit simultaneously, by using quantum phenomena known as superposition and entanglement. There are certain use-cases that make these methods extremely effective – for example, for every additional qubit in a system, the number of operations that can be performed, scale exponentially.
Along with quantum-related patent applications skyrocketing in the last few years (while an exact timeframe is under debate) there is general consensus that ‘Quantum Supremacy’ is firmly on the horizon. Commercial quantum computer prototypes exist today and there are a number of organisations already demonstrating the vast potential of having such efficient problem-solving power. To take some examples, car manufacturers running optimisation problems to help reduce traffic waiting times; Pharmaceutical companies are looking into how to speed up the process of discovering new medicines; and researchers are using them to aid exploring the universe for extra-terrestrial life.
With the market value expected to reach US$1.7 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 30.2%, banking and financial services verticals are fuelling this growth potential, with the likes of Goldman Sachs announcing plans to develop algorithms that can improve their financial appliances. The appetite for the technology is great, and the applications are endless. However, with great power comes greater responsibility. Where some people see the potential for widening the field of discovery and positive transformation in society, many will see the potential for misuse and self-serving gains, such as breaking encryption.
Previously intractable problems such as altering blockchains, or asymmetric cryptography, which usually relies on either the difficulty of factoring integers (RSA) or calculating discrete logarithms (Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman), will become relatively easy to solve.
CyberHive head of product Gareth Lockwood advises: “Quantum computing will be revolutionary, and yet another disruptive technology. The time is now to evaluate and plan to mitigate your future risk and exposure to quantum threats, it is imperative when planning and deploying new technology or critical infrastructure that you remain ahead of the curve by focusing on a long-term data security strategy.”
Fundamentally, everything from Web browsing, e-mail, financial transactions, online shopping, and even cryptocurrency could be put at risk. And as we move towards a future of smart cities, autonomous vehicles, and the inevitable physical-digital integration of the next industrial revolution, the ability for quantum computers to facilitate malicious activity becomes increasingly apparent. Even today, encrypted data traffic can be recorded and harvested, stored, to be cracked later when quantum computers are available to nation state funded projects and subsequently mainstream, and even cloud hosted Quantum-Computing-as-a-Service (QCaaS) availability.
Current encryption is in essence, already outdated, and today’s communication devices are vulnerable. Quantum safe encryption is needed now to protect our business and critical industrial devices. The recommendation is not to wait until the technology is here, but for companies to plan and level up their security provisions as soon as possible, before they become obsolete.
Post-quantum cryptography is a relatively new field and can be daunting to focus on, thankfully it doesn’t have to be – there are steps you can take now to protect your organisation in the long term. Both the NCSC (the UK National Cyber Security Centre) and the NSA (the US National Security Agency) have stated that the most effective mitigation against this threat is post-quantum cryptography. In fact, the NIST (the US National Institute of Standards and Technology) Post-Quantum Cryptography Standardization Project is now in its final stages, with ratified standards expected to be announced shortly and become requirements within a few years.
The team at CyberHive are at the forefront of post-quantum cryptography and are developing solutions across several business and industrial applications. Contact our specialist team at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how to transition from legacy encryption algorithms to quantum-secure standards.