Written by April Miller, Managing Editor at ReHack Magazine
How near is quantum computing to cracking encryption? It may happen earlier than you anticipate. Traditional cybersecurity protocols are not sophisticated enough to shield against it. Unless security experts discover a resolution promptly, the digital world as you recognize it will vanish. Is there any way to prevent it?
Is Quantum Computing a Threat to Cybersecurity?
Generally, you’ll only locate quantum computers in high-end research labs and government facilities because the technology is still in its early stages. It’s also exceedingly costly and requires a very precise operating environment — but that doesn’t indicate it can’t end up in the wrong hands.
As quantum computing technology progresses, acquiring it becomes simpler. Threat actors, foreign governments, and cybercriminals might obtain it soon, which presents a national security hazard and could jeopardize your data.
While classical computers use ones and zeroes to handle information, quantum computers depend on quantum bits — called qubits — instead. In accordance with the superposition principle, qubits exist in multiple states simultaneously. In other words, they significantly boost processing speeds.
Security professionals believe quantum computing is a cybersecurity menace. Primarily, they’re concerned it will render current encryption standards ineffective. Blockchain integrity is another worry because digital signatures rely on public-key encryption.
Why is quantum computing a danger to cryptography? To encode something, you employ complex mathematical formulas to convert data into unreadable gibberish. It operates because classical computers are too feeble to compute a resolution in a reasonable timeframe.
Where a classical computer would take 300 trillion years to breach a 2048-bit RSA key — the most common public-key encryption — quantum computers could unlock it in only eight hours. Needless to say, you can see why this technology poses a threat.
Effect of Quantum Computing on Cybersecurity
At present, most of the world encrypts information to securely store and transmit it. If quantum computing breaches standard encryption methods, continuous data leaks, breaches, and interceptions will become the new norm.
If standard cryptography methods become useless, companies and apps will be unable to safeguard your personal information. Your biometric, financial, and health data will be free for all, meaning your identity and credit card details are practically guaranteed to be pilfered.
Hospitals, military facilities, and critical infrastructure also rely on encryption. If quantum computing breaches cryptography standards, secure communication and data storage will be a relic of the past — meaning the digital world as you know it will become outdated.
Anything dependent on blockchain technology is also at risk because digital signatures — transaction authenticators — rely on public key encryption. Supply chains, cryptocurrency exchanges, voting systems, and healthcare networks could descend into chaos.
That being said, there’s a positive aspect. While quantum computing might have a disastrous effect on standard encryption protocols, it also motivates the world to embrace new technology. Since digital transformation can enhance cybersecurity posture, global security standards will fortify.
If quantum computing did not exist, something else would take its place. Eventually, some other disruptive new technology would materialize to change the game. In other words, it’s a present in disguise. Now, the world knows it’s time to modernize cryptography standards.
Challenges Confronting Security Professionals
Security professionals are hurrying to devise quantum-resistant solutions. The only complication is that research and development take time. Even though quantum computing is years away from breaching common cryptography standards, finding an unassailable solution might take just as long.
On a related note, this technology keeps progressing. Many companies are making headway in fault-tolerant development, implying they’re making their computers resistant to common errors. Accessible quantum computing will arrive sooner than you think.
As security experts lack a clear timeline, research and development become challenging. Formulating scalable quantum-resistant solutions is complicated, so the uncertainty isn’t ideal. They will have to work quickly and synchronize their efforts to address the issue in time.
How to Safeguard Against Quantum Computing?
While quantum computing is a complex, futuristic threat, defending against it is not insurmountable. Experts from around the world are already diligently working on finding solutions.
If the problem is that standard encryption is too feeble, the obvious solution is to make it impervious to penetration. Quantum-safe cryptography is accomplishing just that — its objective is to craft algorithms resilient to quantum computer attacks.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has made progress. It issued draft standards for three quantum-safe algorithms — CRYSTALS-Kyber, CRYSTALS-Dilithium, and SPHINCS+ — in late 2023. With any luck, they will be ready sometime in 2024.
Collaborative Research and Development
Collaborative research and development are crucial to defending against quantum computing. If researchers, government agencies, and leading security experts pool their resources to find a solution, they have a much better chance of success.
Quantum Key Distribution
Even if you make cryptography quantum resistant, you still need to be able to securely exchange encryption keys. Utilizing quantum mechanics, you can accomplish just that. It’s almost paradoxical — who would have thought the problem would be the solution?
Quantum key distribution utilizes the quantum properties of light to generate secure random keys. Since it doesn’t rely on mathematical formulas, it remains impervious to quantum attacks. In this way, you can exchange encryption keys without the fear of interception.
Quantum Cybersecurity Adoption
It’s true quantum computing technology will fall into the wrong hands as it becomes more accessible. However, the good guys will also have an easier time getting ahold of it. They can use it to enhance threat detection since its processing power is so advanced.
Safeguarding Against Quantum Computing Is Attainable
There’s no straightforward way to say it — quantum computing could be calamitous for cybersecurity. Fortunately, the best minds globally are already toiling away at finding solutions. Hopefully, they have an impervious solution by the time quantum computers breach cryptography standards.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Cyber Express. Any content provided by the author is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.