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Is Quantum Computing a threat to Cyber Security?

Quantum computers analyze enormous data sets and execute complex computations significantly faster than traditional computers. Google constructed a quantum computer in 2019 that could calculate in 3 minutes and 20 seconds. Still, regular supercomputers would have taken 10,000 years to solve the identical calculation, proving quantum edge or quantum supremacy.

While quantum computing is still in its early stages, upheavals in various areas, including cybersecurity, may occur much sooner than you think. The impact of quantum computing on cybersecurity is tremendous and game-changing.

Quantum computing shows significant promise in various fields, including weather forecasting, artificial intelligence, medical research, etc. However, it poses a substantial threat to cybersecurity, necessitating a shift in how we secure our data.

While quantum computers cannot currently break most of our present types of encryptions, we must immediately keep ahead of the risk and develop quantum-proof solutions. It will be too late if we wait till those powerful quantum computers begin breaking our encryption.

An additional reason to act now

Regardless of when commercially available quantum computers will emerge, the potential of malicious actors harvesting data is another reason to quantum-proof data now. They are already grabbing data and storing it until they can obtain a quantum computer to decipher it.

The data will have already been compromised at that point. The only way to maintain information security, particularly information that must be kept indefinitely, is to protect it today via quantum-safe key transmission.

Quantum Threat to Cybersecurity

Quantum computers will be capable of solving issues that traditional computers are incapable of solving. This involves deciphering the algorithms underlying the encryption keys that safeguard our data and the Internet’s infrastructure.

The encryption used nowadays is largely built on mathematical calculations that would take far too long to decipher on today’s machines. Scientists have been working on constructing quantum computers that can factor progressively bigger numbers since then. Consider two large integers and multiply them together to simplify this. It’s simple to calculate the product, but it’s considerably more difficult to start with a huge number and divide it into its two prime numbers. However, a quantum computer can readily factor those numbers and break the code.

Peter Shor created a quantum method (aptly titled Shor’s algorithm) that can factor in big numbers far faster than a traditional computer.

Today’s RSA encryption is extensively used for transferring critical data over the Internet and is based on 2048-bit numbers. Experts believe that breaking that encryption would require a quantum computer with up to 70 million qubits. The largest quantum computer available today is IBM’s 53-qubit quantum computer, so it may be long before that encryption to be broken.

As the speed of quantum research continues to accelerate, such a computer cannot be developed within the next 3-5 years.

For example, Google and Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology discovered “a more efficient technique for quantum computers to do the code-breaking calculations, decreasing required resources by orders of magnitude” earlier this year. Their research, featured in the MIT Technology Review, proved that a 20 million-qubit computer could break a 2048-bit number in about 8 hours. However, given the rapid speed of quantum research, such a computer cannot be developed within 3-5 years. That means that continued advances like this will keep pushing the timescale forward.

It’s worth mentioning that perishable sensitive data isn’t the major concern when it comes to the quantum encryption issue. The more serious concern is the susceptibility of information that must remain secret indefinitely, such as banking data, privacy data, national security-level data, etc. Those are the secrets that need to be protected by quantum-proof encryption right now.

Adapting Cybersecurity to Respond to the Threat

Researchers have been working hard to produce “quantum-safe” encryption in recent years. There are many unanswered problems in quantum computing, and scientists are working hard to find answers.

However, one thing is certain about the influence of quantum computing on cybersecurity: it will represent a danger to cybersecurity and current types of encryptions. To mitigate that threat, we must change how we secure our data and begin doing it now.

We must handle the quantum threat the same way we approach other security vulnerabilities: by adopting a defense-in-depth strategy that includes many layers of quantum-safe protection. Security-conscious enterprises recognize the need for crypto agility.

They are looking for crypto-diverse solutions, such as those provided by Encryption Consulting LLC, quantum-safe their encryption now and quantum-ready for tomorrow’s challenges.

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About the Author

Prabhat Kumar Tomar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs, and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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