(IllinoisToday) Arqit is quietly preparing companies and governments for quantum computers, the next major threat to cyber defense. David Williams, co-founder and chairman of Arqit, states that quantum computers are millions of times faster than traditional computers and can break into one of the most widely used cryptographic methods. The legacy cryptography we all use to keep our secrets secure is called PKI,” Williams, a public key infrastructure, told CNBC in an interview. “It was invented in the 70’s.”
Williams further explained to CNBC, “When you and I use PKI cryptography, we do half of the difficult math problems. It’s prime factorization. You give me a number and I calculate a prime number to calculate a new number. Classic computers can’t break it, but quantum computers do.”
Arqit already counts BT, Sumitomo Corporation, the UK Government and the European Space Agency as customers. Part of the Arqit team previously worked for the British intelligence agency GCHQ. The company just recently got out of “stealth mode” and its listing on the stock market was no longer timely.
Kasper Rasmussen, an associate professor of computer science at Oxford University, told CNBC that quantum computers are “designed to perform certain operations much faster than classic computers.”
Williams believes his company has found a solution. Instead of relying on public key cryptography, Arqit sends symmetric cryptographic keys (long random numbers) over the satellite. This is called “quantum key distribution”. Virgin Orbit, which invested in Arqit as part of its SPAC contract, plans to launch a satellite from Cornwall, England by 2023.
“Public key cryptography is literally everywhere in the digitized world, from bank cards to how to connect to the Internet, car keys, and Internet of Things (IOT) devices,” said Cybersecurity CEO and Founder. One Ali Kaafarani said. Startup PQShield told CNBC. Kaafarani expects NIST to set a new standard by the end of 2021. But he warns,
“The current challenge is how companies need to prepare for the transition to new standards. The lessons of the past prove that it’s too late to switch from one algorithm to another, and it can take years or even decades.”
Williams believes companies need to be ready now, adding that adopting public-key cryptography to form “more complex” post-quantum algorithms is not the solution.
President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to strengthen US cyber defenses.