By Mousume Roy, APAC Reporter, HCL Technologies Ltd.
Cyberattacks, data breaches, and ransomware are some of the top cyber security risks of 2022. Though artificial intelligence, the internet of things, quantum computing, and the Metaverse have the potential to transform business, human lives, and society, there may be unintended consequences, such as cyberattacks, vulnerabilities, and risks associated with the realm of emerging technologies.
With society becoming more reliant on the virtual world, online shopping, and Zoom meetings, the quantum race is intensifying to new heights. The global market for Quantum Computing technology was estimated to be $472 million in 2021, and it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 30.2% to reach a value of $1.76 billion by 2026. Quantum computing is already topping Gartner's hype trends.
QC is based on a combination of information theory and quantum mechanics, which is a new way of processing information. They are faster than any classical computer (or non-quantum machine) for solving a complex problem, searching a database (an elemental operation with a thousand uses), or analyzing optimization problems (read: beneficial for transport industry for finding best routes).
Kalyan Kumar, Global Chief Technology Officer at HCL Technologies & Chief Product Officer - HCL Software in London, UK stated: “Quantum Computing uses physics – quantum states of subatomic particles – to create incredibly powerful computers that store data and perform computational tasks on a huge scale. This trend will fundamentally shape the future of human existence”.
In an industry-context, Kumar explained the power of quantum computing will solve and support transportation problems, route optimization, traffic congestion and important medical research to help cures diseases like cancer. “Quantum computing is going to create completely new possibilities and change the way we live and understand the world,” Kumar added.
Quantum technology is approaching the mainstream
Goldman Sachs predicts quantum computing is five years away from use in markets, while HoneyWell predicts quantum will form a $1 trillion industry in the decades ahead. Google has claimed that their quantum computer, Sycamore, carried out a calculation beyond the ability of today’s most powerful supercomputers. And, the US, China, and European Union have already devoted substantial resources to developing quantum-enabled intelligence and military capabilities.
In recent years, the prospect of quantum computing to solve large complex problems faster and cheaper has encouraged substantial investment from tech giants, countries, and even businesses.
As the quantum supremacy race picks up, businesses must understand the ground rules of quantum computers, their potential advantages, and the challenges of cybersecurity risks
Quantum computing posing cybersecurity risks
Quantum computing is currently functioning as an early-developing market. Though it can perform large numerical calculations such as accurate weather predictions, statistical modelling of chemistry, fraud detection, and optimize complex computations—quantum computing could create new risks to the basis of cryptography algorithms that support many everyday digital activities (online payment and internet transactions, as an example). Today everything digital is based on cryptographic technology, and as the time required to break through security is less, the cyber risks and impact on data security and privacy increase dramatically.
Experts predict that within a decade with access to quantum computing capabilities, cybercriminals may gain access to and the ability to crack public-key cryptography algorithms that serve as the backbone of today’s internet.
Organizations need to understand the disruptive power of quantum computing (applications such as AI, ML, and Data Science) and evaluate the risks to their current cryptographic status. The distributed and systemic risks surrounding quantum computing requires collective action and solutions. Decision-makers need to plan out strategic steps to migrate to post-quantum cryptography.
The impact of “Cryptographic risks”
The quantum computing threat is related to cryptographic encryption that could lead to the failure of cyber-systems (cyberattacks or disrupting trust). The internet economy heavily depends on cryptography as the basis of a secure network.
In cryptographic encryption, a key or code is required to unlock an encrypted file. If the code (key) is longer, it takes more time for a computer to crack the code, hence, making the file more secure. For performing cryptographic operations, three types of algorithmic techniques are used—hash functions, symmetric key algorithms, and public-key algorithms. The quantum threat to public-key cryptography (used for digital signature) is much higher than the hash or symmetric functions.
As public-keys are widely distributed, advanced cyber criminals could conduct “harvest now, decrypt later” attacks, in which they store encrypted data and communication today, to decrypt data in the future.
Standardizing post quantum cryptography
The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) is working on developing post-quantum cryptography and the future availability of tools to mitigate the threat posed by cryptography. The institute is working to standardize public-key and post quantum cryptography algorithms to develop systems that are secure against both quantum and traditional computers.
Additionally, NIST is also building recommendations and best practices to simplify migration from public key cryptography algorithms to quantum resistant algorithms.
A step towards the quantum future
Though the real impact of quantum computers may seem far off, the current state of quantum computers will still yield tremendous benefits. Businesses, industries and state-nations are investing heavily in cracking the quantum problems—from error correction and algorithms to scaling qubit count.
This is the right time for organizations and decision makers to think strategically about the risks and benefits of quantum computing—and prepare to be ready for the quantum future.