Far more powerful and capable of a great deal more than ‘traditional’ computers, quantum computers may be the natural next step in technological development. However, they also pose a considerable risk to existing cybersecurity measures.
Here, we take a look at whether developments in quantum computing and quantum cryptography will result in the creation of appropriate security technology, or whether they will put individuals, businesses and governments in unprecedented danger.
Modern cybersecurity is largely based on the practice of cryptography. Simply put, this is the use of large numbers and complex calculations to create complex keys that cannot be cracked easily. However, quantum computers’ ability to perform certain calculations at a much faster rate may render such defences useless.
In a world defined by digital technology, this has enormous ramifications.On a basic level, it leaves personal communications, finances, digital devices and internet applications open to attack. Developing Internet of Things technology means that everyday devices in the home, ranging from thermostats to lighting, are vulnerable. For businesses, it increases the likelihood of fraud and corporate espionage. On a global level, it puts nations at risk. After all, if no information is safe from your enemies, how secure can you be?
Developments in cybersecurity
Quantum computing demonstrates that cybersecurity threats are continually evolving and that so must our preventative actions. Fortunately, quantum mechanics itself may offer hope of a solution. Currently, there are two distinct directions in which post-quantum cybersecurity is heading.
The first is a new type of post-quantum cryptography that will be able to withstand the power of quantum computers. Second, there is a significant amount of research being conducted into quantum key distribution (QKD). QKD makes the most of an interesting characteristic inherent in sub-atomic particles that’s known as quantum indeterminacy. This is the idea that measuring something has an effect on its original state or alters it. QKD uniquely utilises this to guarantee the security of a transmission. If a hostile third party attempts to ‘listen in’ on the transmission of data, they must identify and measure it, altering the qubits themselves and alerting the sender and recipient to any interference. Technically, this allows for data transfer over unsecured channels.
As with all technological progress, there are risks inherent in quantum computing — particularly regarding cybersecurity. However, such technology is also likely to contain the seed from which new cybersecurity measures are developed. At this moment in time, a significant amount of work is being conducted into new post-quantum security, and it seems probable that solutions will be found.
Unfortunately, this may not be the real risk. It is estimated that we are around 15–20 years from the proper implementation of quantum computers. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a long time. If businesses and governments don’t begin to consider their post-quantum security policy in the immediate future, we may find that quantum computing matures before our security response. That being the case, it’s vital we start taking steps to secure ourselves from this new threat as soon as possible.
To find out more about the quantum computing security threat, discover how you can begin shaping your response and ensure the integrity of your business’ digital systems, get in touch with us.
Originally published at eleks.com on March 9, 2018.