(WeForum) The World Economic Forum Centre for Cybersecurity’s Future Series, a group of leading global technology, security and policy experts, recently discussed the strategic cybersecurity issues arising from quantum technology. There are two major sets of challenges that require collective action by the global community:
1. Quantum computing has the potential to break the encryption on which most enterprises, digital infrastructures and economies rely. The sheer calculating ability of a sufficiently powerful and error-corrected quantum computer means that public key cryptography is “destined to fail”, and would put the technology used to protect many of today’s fundamental digital systems and activities at risk. 2. The geopolitics of quantum technology could act as a barrier to unlocking its full value.
National security concerns over sovereignty, and maintaining control over strategic capability, could also act as major barriers to unlocking the potential transformative value of quantum technology in the wider economy. Quantum technology has the potential to be game-changing for national security and the information race, and there is a real risk that competition will interfere with international collaboration and widen asymmetries in security and industrial capability.
Addressing these risks requires action now both at an individual enterprise as well as at a collective level. An approach similar to the global technology councils that emerged to manage AI might be required to govern the full range of global governance principles and models as quantum technology rolls out.
We are at a tipping point in the quantum arms race that is developing between nations. The technology has the potential to generate major and systemic risks to the ecosystem, which – unless we act collectively in order to address the obstacles – might act as major barriers to unlocking the true value of quantum technology. This offers an opportunity, especially to the cybersecurity community, to pioneer the principles, approaches and multi-stakeholder ecosystem that will be crucial in building the trust required to fully harness the promise of this new technology.