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How to unlock the cybersecurity potential of quantum computers

By Sandra Helsel posted 02 May 2022

(TechRadar) Andrew Shields writes here about public key encryption’s critical role in today’s cyber security infrastructure – essential to the web, ecommerce, and the secure transfer and storage of vast quantities of sensitive business and personal data. Yet the underlying security of these public key encryption, taken for granted for a long time, is now under threat. IQT-summarizes Shield’s discussion below.
The concern is that this is soon to be aided further by the arrival of quantum computers, which will severely weaken much of the encryption techniques that we rely on today. As such, there is a need to future-proof data now before it’s too late, particularly that which remains sensitive for a long time – such as genomic or financial information – given hackers can bide their time as quantum looms closer, in the meantime harvesting encrypted data that they’ll soon be able to break.
Sectors where data privacy is of paramount importance – smart manufacturing, finance, and healthcare – the quantum threat is already being taken seriously. It’s now imperative that other sectors follow suit before it is too late. Meanwhile the evolution of QKD continues in a race to ensure wider protections for businesses and society in the quantum era. Most notably at an IoT and device-level, a chip-based QKD system could maximize protection, enabling mass-deployment of such security in this age of unprecedented data proliferation.
Fortunately, there are solutions in play to negate this threat in the form of quantum key distribution (QKD) – a secure method of generating and distributing secret keys between two parties on an optical network. By harnessing the properties of particles like photons, QKD can be used to generate and distribute secret keys needed for cryptographic applications. By sending streams of encoded single photons through a network, it is possible to share a secret digital key that can be used for encrypting or authenticating information while also preventing cyber criminals from accessing and using the keys.
Through decades of tireless research QKD has been developed to the point where it is now both commercially viable and available. QKD systems such as Toshiba’s have been refined to overcome stumbling blocks to the technology through innovative capabilities such as high key rates, longer transmission lengths, multiplexing and active stabilization. Multiplexing enables QKD to be implemented on data carrying fiber, subsequently reducing the cost of deployment and ensuring it can work within the existing network infrastructure supplied by today’s carriers.

Sandra K. Helsel, Ph.D. has been researching and reporting on frontier technologies since 1990. She has her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.

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