Quantum computing could be coming sooner than anticipated. With Google’s recent announcement regarding the progress on their own Quantum Computer, the time period in which these supercomputers could make their debut may have shrunken exponentially. Though some say Google is premature in their predictions, they are yet another addition to the arms race for “quantum supremacy”. So why does everyone want to be the first? Quantum computing has long been synonymous with innovation. With increased computing power comes unlimited solutions to outstanding problems in our society. While this is true and something to look forward to, there is something far less beneficial coming with it as well, the need for quantum cybersecurity.
Almost everything we use today depends on our technological grid. As the Internet of Things grows and grid systems modernize, the susceptibility to cyber attack increases. The more access points, the better the chances that malware could be planted on devices that have the ability to destroy equipment, cause widespread outages, and threaten public safety. This can all done thousands of miles away in a secure environment with relative anonymity if done properly. To combat this, cryptography has become an integral component of our digital infrastructure. Effective encryption is not just important, it is necessary for government entities, businesses and individuals to protect their digital communication. Many of our core communication protocols rely on 3 functionalities in particular: public key encryption, digital signatures, and key exchange. With the advent of quantum computing, these forms of encryption are rendered completely useless. Because quantum computing is based on encoding data into the superposition of states and creating quantum bits rather than the ones and zeros in the binary digits of classical computers, quantum computers will have the ability to crack the large-scale cryptography that exists within our current grid system within seconds. Linus Chang, the founder of Australian software company Scram Software put it like this: If a classical computer and a quantum computer were given the same 56-bit encryption, it would take the classical computer, on average, 1 day to crack it while the quantum computer would take 0.322 milliseconds. Imagine that power in the hands of the wrong people.
ABI Research, the leader in emerging technology intelligence, predicts that the first attack-capable quantum computers will be on the market by 2030. That is a short time before every device we own and all the information and data accumulated by extension is immediately accessible if the attacker wants to target us, and there are plenty who do. What we need to do now is prepare ourselves for this imminent threat with quantum cybersecurity. While traditional cybersecurity addresses network breaches after they happen, quantum cybersecurity consists of implementing quantum security measures before the attacks occur. This can be done right now by adding quantum key distribution to existing encryption to strengthen it against potential attacks.
Quantum keys are the world’s only true random numbers and through this distribution, only the keys are shared using photons of light. While these photons can be intercepted, they cannot be cloned. This no-cloning ability is the fundamental principle behind quantum key distribution and its revolutionary abilities have already been recognized and implemented by Swiss banks and European governmental units. In the longer term, quantum networks must be integrated into our existing transmission lines and quantum-resistant algorithms must be deployed. Understanding that these cybersecurity measures must be taken now is crucial. The threat posed by the advent of quantum computers is imminent and affects all of us.