Quantum computing, even if it’s something you may not have heard of, is set to transform the way we communicate online and the way we store our data. However, many experts in the industry are already looking forward to what’s next, warning of the dangers to come and urging us to all become post-quantum ready.
What is the quantum threat?
These days, cyber attacks are becoming more and more prevalent. As the technologies used by both criminals and cybersecurity firms become more and more innovative, newspapers are filled with stories of sensitive and personal information being stolen. Thanks to the recent advances in quantum computing around the world, these cyber attacks are threatening to become more successful.
Public key encryption, or PKI, may have served us well for years, or even decades, but it will soon become obsolete. Quantum computers, which are already being developed by the likes of Google and IBM, will soon be capable of cracking ciphers and figuring out algorithms far faster than standard computers. Once that happens – and it will, before too long, then most forms of encryption already out there will prove to be effectively useless.
What does being post-quantum ready mean?
Becoming post-quantum ready is all about ensuring that your data – and the data of your customers and clients – is safe from the possibility of quantum computing attacks. Although today’s most powerful quantum computers don’t yet pose a threat, experts have warned that the danger could be as close as five or 10 years away.
Quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, in their processing, and the more qubits used, the more powerful they are – and they’re growing in strength exponentially. IBM recently revealed their first 127-qubit chip, and while it may be a technological breakthrough, for IBM it’s only the first step towards their planned 1,121-qubit processor, which is expected to be unveiled in 2023.
What are the dangers of quantum supremacy?
For now, quantum computers aren’t readily available, and are far too expensive and resource-intensive for just about anyone to be able to use. The danger, therefore, is that nations such as Russia and China are already investing in quantum technology. If they manage to achieve quantum supremacy before the rest of the world does, then the rest of the world will be left exposed – they’ll be able to decrypt our data and find out our secrets while we struggle to catch up with them.
While quantum computing does promise benefits for all kinds of industries, from healthcare to the financial services, at the moment they’re outweighed by the dangers of this technology being in the wrong hands. It’s only a matter of time before criminals and hackers get their hands on quantum computing technology, and provided it’s powerful enough, they’ll be able to seize any data they set their minds to. Since this danger may still be years away, it’s important that we work to prepare ourselves and our software capabilities – before time runs out.
We’re rapidly approaching the point where quantum computers will transform the business landscape, and as well as preparing for the dangers, we can also look forward to the possibilities they’ll offer. As well as keeping data secure, this technology will also be able to solve problems that computers of the past would have taken hours, years, or even longer to work out. Quantum computing simulations will prove invaluable in fields as diverse as science and engineering or economics and weather forecasting.
How can you become post-quantum ready?
There are already companies out there that are gearing up for this post-quantum future we’re facing, and one such firm is Arqit. The British company, which has employed some of the top minds from the fields of technology, cryptography, and astrophysics, believes it’s found the answer to this quantum threat – and that answer is QuantumCloud™, a solution involving satellites and quantum key distribution, or QKD.
QKD encrypts data using photons, or particles of light, and because of the quantum nature of the encryption, any attempt to read the message or listen in without the correct key would change the nature of the particles and destroy them. This technique works in fibre optic cables, but only for distances of up to 60 miles – after that, the information begins to decay. In the vacuum of space, however, it can travel much further. Arqit’s fleet of satellites are set to be launched into space by Virgin Orbit, starting in 2023, and once up there, they’ll be capable of beaming down secure quantum-encrypted keys to whoever needs them, wherever they are.
To use Arqit’s QuantumCloud™ technology, all you’ll need is a piece of software on your device – they’ve even claimed it can be used on regular smartphones. Using a secure encryption key, a number thousands of digits long, you’ll be able to open up a communications channel with another user on their quantum network, without worrying about anybody else eavesdropping on you.
There’s more than one way to prepare for our post-quantum future. Even just learning about the possibility of quantum threats is, in a way, preparing. The best way, though, is simply to act now and protect your data or your company from any possible threats.