Keeping Secrets in an Era of Quantum Computing

Sept. 11, 2020
The benefits this new era of computing will usher in also comes with some unwanted security side effects

We are quickly approaching a point of no return. Over the past 10 years, we have seen a massive push towards the use of higher computing power to hack into data and infrastructure.  From nation-states to global syndicates, the continuous barrage of attacks has indicated an uptick of sophisticated breaches that have challenged our defense systems as well as global enterprises. 

As the world of Big Data increases and the use of metadata grows with the explosion of connected devices, it is evident that the attack surfaces have grown exponentially.  It is therefore evident that the push towards quantum-proof encryption and the need to be prepared for the inevitable results are clear. David Wiener, CEO of 7Tunnels, defines today and tomorrow in the new battlefield of data security and communication:

“Those of us who watched the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, witnessed an accomplishment many of our parents never thought possible or perhaps, only in science fiction. Today, we take NASA’s Moon to Mars plan to send astronauts to this planet as simply the next, logical step. What once seemed improbable and radical has moved into the orbit of totally believable,” says Wiener.

In the world of computing, we are about to cross the Rubicon as we enter the mystical realm of Quantum. Like space travel of yesteryear, quantum supremacy, “…the point at which a quantum computer can complete a mathematical calculation that is demonstrably beyond the reach of even the most powerful supercomputer” was once believed an elusive quest, possibly 20 years away. And yet, Google, IBM, Intel, Alibaba, Russia, China, and most recently Honeywell, have all announced achievements in this realm.

Quantum computers will disrupt current techniques and solve previously unapproachable problems, resulting in breakthroughs in science, medicine, machine learning and innumerable other fields. The key is that quantum can process so much more information so much faster than anything we understand today. While we recognize the tremendous benefits this new era of computing will usher in, there will be side effects. These machines will have the power to unlock the digital encryption we currently use to protect our secrets.

This means all past, present, and potentially future information you once thought securely protected will now be vulnerable. Knowing what’s to come, bad actors and nation-states have been harvesting communications and data for years anticipating the arrival of quantum. This new and powerful technology will enable them to unlock the secrets encrypted within. Without a doubt, quantum computing will have a transformative effect on our society and could potentially lead to a shifting in the global balance of power.

According to Deloitte, “Quantum information technologies will almost certainly have significant impacts on national security – touching everything from extremely secure communications to faster code-breaking to better detection of aircraft and submarines.” The threat is real. The threat is now.

“While behemoths battle and race towards quantum supremacy, innovation labs, large and small, are working on an equally important mission: quantum-proof encryption, ensuring that while the bad guys may get your data, they cannot access its information,” states David Wiener.

It has become obvious to those involved at the top levels of cybersecurity that kicking the can down the road is no longer an option, and it is critical that our concerns regarding the security of our data and the security of our national infrastructure be taken seriously. With socio-cultural and health concerns becoming a spark to an already dry tinderbox, it is clear that chaos will only help the effect of how our world as we know it can change in an instant when critical data becomes available to those who have a desire to proliferate global disruption or Armageddon.

About the author: Pierre Bourgeix, MS, MA, MBA, CPP is currently the CTO and Founder of ESI Convergent, LLC. Pierre has spent 30 years as a global security consultant and innovator through his experience with The Rand Corporation, The U.S. State Department, ADT/Tyco Security, HySecurity, Wallace International, SecureState and Boon Edam.