(IFSEC.Global) Julian Hall explores how quantum computing is set to dramatically impact upon the security sector.
The huge capacity of a quantum computer means a massive encryption capability. “One of the fundamental building blocks for making digital technologies secure is cryptography,” notes Michele Mosca, co-founder and Deputy Director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, Canada.
Quantum computers would break all of this.Mosca identifies four specific risks from the fallout of this big data bang:
1) Confidential data, protected by these algorithms, that is stored can be decrypted and exploited later once quantum computers are available to adversaries.
2) If quantum-safe alternatives are not ready in time, it could also mean the systemic collapse of digital systems that deeply rely on these building blocks. This would impact essentially all critical infrastructures.
3) If migration to quantum-safe system is managed as a crisis, the rush will lead to flawed designs and implementations that will be vulnerable to conventional attacks. Inter-operability with other systems in the respective digital ecosystems is also likely to be compromised.
4) If lack of quantum readiness becomes apparent, people may lose faith in the security of digital systems, and the institutions responsible for the availability and security of these systems. Trust and confidence in our institutions is critical for the healthy functioning of society.
It’s pretty apocalyptic stuff and it sounds a bit like the hype over Y2K, but with actual peril.
There’s a general consensus among cyber experts and industry experts that battling quantum decryption doesn’t have to be rocket science even if it will be time consuming.
“In theory, it’s simple,” says Michele Mosca. “Replace the public-key algorithms we depend on with alternatives that are designed to resist quantum attacks. In practice, this is a massive and multi-faceted undertaking that takes 10-20 years to do properly. Much remains to be done, and more stakeholders will need to join the effort.”