Written by: Giovanna Sunseri
Concerns with Cybersecurity
The development of quantum computing goes hand in hand with the development of growing concern about the future of cybersecurity. Quantum computing is predicted to change drug discovery, the stock market, gene sequencing, and cryptography (Sham, 2019). Quantum computing is based on the binary number concept of translating the computer’s instructions into 0s or 1s but allows this to be done at the same time allowing for computations to occur at an exponentially faster rate than conventional computers are able. Cybersecurity is built on cryptography, tools, and algorithms that add security layers allowing for secure communication along with keeping the secrecy and integrity of the data being exchanged. The unknown area of quantum computing security can be a cause of concern in regard to the CIA triad. The confidentiality and integrity of information are two-thirds of what embody the fundamentals of security and can become easily compromised due to current cryptographic algorithms becoming superannuated (Stallings and Brown, 2015). Current cryptographic algorithms are heavily built of prime factorization to create public-private key parts. The most common cryptographic algorithms are AES-256, RSA, and SHA-256. The cryptographic algorithms relying on prime factorization bring many concerns in terms of cybersecurity with respect to quantum computing which allows the prime factorization to be broken down aggressively faster than conventional computers. Additionally, secret keys can be calculated or searched considerably quicker than a conventional computer would ever have the capability to do. This presents an uncertain landscape because even the strongest cryptographic algorithms will be considered obsolete due to this innovation. This influx of cryptographic technologies could lead to widespread security leakages. The growing new territory of quantum computing causes almost a sense of fear and it is predicted, “within the next decade, these machines [quantum computers] will be available to government agencies and large companies around the world, giving them unprecedented access and power,” (Sham, 2019).
While defense and new security tactics are relatively unknown in regard to quantum computing as the realm of cybersecurity is relatively new itself, tech companies like Google and government agencies are continuously working on new cryptographic ways to increase security against quantum computing attacks. These include lattice-based algorithms, advanced cryptography, and white hat quantum hacking (Sham, 2019). An advantage of all of these defense methods is that they also will work with conventional computers. Lattice-based algorithms can replace the current cryptographic algorithms altogether and are more secure because they assume the worst-case hardness of certain lattice problems. Advanced cryptography is the development of new algorithms which will be harder for quantum computers to break. Additionally, white hat quantum hacking is a continuous process of tests to find and exploit the weaknesses in emerging algorithms before they are applied in the real world.
Another unknown with quantum computing is what functions will be created after its inception. Some hypothesize that the computers will be able to work in unison with an AI to systematically evolve the current landscape of encryption. This means we would be able to develop quantum encryption, to be used to hide the actions of these computers and prevent them from accessing secure systems. Though this is largely theory-based, it does have serious plausibility, especially one a firm understanding of the process algorithms is established.
Race to Quantum Dominance
While there is currently no cyber warfare in quantum computing, there is an arms race between who will be the first to perfect it and put it into production. The current race for dominance is between China and the United States, who ranked second and fourth respectively for the countries with the highest technological expertise (Radu, 2020). Google has been making large advances and their quantum computer completed a mathematical equation in 3 minutes and 20 seconds that a supercomputer would not be able to complete in under 10,000 years (Metz, 2019). This advancement along with the advancements being made by IBM and Microsoft are colossal progressions for the United States, however, there are obstacles due to the millions of dollars it costs to produce these machines. On the other hand, China has spent $400 million on quantum computing and has double the patents as the United States (Metz, 2019). The winner of this race can prove a lot as it goes further than quantum computing, due to the effects quantum computing will have with artificial intelligence. China is already leading the way on 5G technologies. For any American company to win the title of the supreme quantum machine, it could allow the United States to move ahead of China as the technological leader of the world.
Metz, C. (2019, October 23). Google Claims a Quantum Breakthrough That Could Change Computing. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/23/technology/quantum-computing-google.html
Sham, S. (2019, July 12). The Impact of Quantum Computing on Cybersecurity. Retrieved from https://www.okta.com/security-blog/2019/07/the-impact-of-quantum-computing-on-cybersecurity/
Stallings, W., & Brown, L. (2015). Computer security: principles and practice (Third). Boston: Pearson.