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Cyber Security Is Essential To Prepare For The Post Quantum Era

Written by Kirsi Kokko, Head of Digital Trust Finland

A golden era of quantum technology is coming tantalizingly close. It promises to carry the baton for powerful high-speed processing and sophisticated cyber security solutions that could shake up the future of computing.

Quantum computers are processors that have the capability to solve complex calculations in hours that would take years in classical computing not rooted in quantum physics. As Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) has advised that a cryptographically relevant quantum computer will be available by 2030, the dawning of the quantum age is just around the corner.

Unfortunately, such computing power also has the potential to give cyber criminals access to computers forceful enough to crack what we think of as our most secure digital encryption. Hackers with quantum tools would be able to open and read in the future any data stolen today – including financial transactions and government communications.

That means there is an urgent need to start developing innovations to secure the internet and all forms of exchanged data and communications from present and future post-quantum threats.


A giant leap for industries across the globe

Quantum computing technology represents a giant leap for industries such as healthcare, space research, finance, and online security. Information that used to take months or years to generate will soon be available in an instant.

The global quantum computing market is forecast to grow dramatically over the next 10 years. By 2023, 76% of high-performance computing centres worldwide are forecast to be using quantum computing — the majority with an on-premises infrastructure. But, as the cost of building a quantum computer falls over the next 10 years, the entire world’s data will become vulnerable to theft and exploitation.

The race is therefore on to develop and update our encryption technologies so that they are equally challenging for classical and quantum computers before it is too late to protect data and organisations from the threat of attacks.


The need for quantum cyber security around the world

 This will drive the need for post-quantum cryptographic solutions to provide the most effective and efficient security capable of protecting communications systems and preventing quantum computing-related hostile intrusion.

And it is a priority for nations around the world. The US is already pushing ahead with security technology as President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order to support quantum technology aiming to head-off adversaries who use the next generation of super computers. He will also sign a national security memorandum outlining the administration’s plan to address the risks posed by quantum computers to America´s cybersecurity infrastructure.

Meanwhile, in the UK, demand for cyber security to protect the future of the financial services sector, the largest in Europe, is high. According to a study supported by the UK Foreign Office, 78% of regulators identify cyber security as the biggest area of risk for financial services and the National Cyber Security Centre has also issued advice to UK businesses to prepare for a step-change in cybersecurity technology brought about by more widespread access to quantum computers.

Here, Finland has had a head start on the race to create post-quantum cryptography technology thanks to financial investment and business incentives from the Finnish Government. As a result, some of the first innovators to develop cyber security solutions have come from business in Finland, who are now calling on the tech community to join their mission to protect our post-quantum world.


Developing ground-breaking solutions for a quantum era

Following more than £3 million in investment from the Digital Trust initiative, the Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC) project, led by VTT (Finland’s Technical Research Centre) is one such organisation leading the way with some of the world’s first quantum-secure encryption technologies.

It aims to be ready for the new quantum era by developing cryptography knowhow and skills as well as and best practices for certification of post quantum products and services. It’s already on that journey thanks to work collaborating with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to produce Post-Quantum Cryptography Standardization – quantum resistant cryptographic algorithms for new public key crypto standards set to be released in 2023-25.

This research is essential, as one of the most worrying applications of quantum computing is its potential for breaking the public-key RSA algorithm – which secures the nearly $4 trillion ecommerce industry. While it would take a classical computer trillions of years to break RSA encryption, a quantum computer could defeat RSA in hours.

Further Finnish organisations, including SSH, Bittium and Insta, are among the first to explore solutions to protect such data in transit by encrypting file transfers and securing remote access with post-quantum technology, as well as quantum encryption that can secure Ethernet and IP traffic across any network, to ensure it remains safe in the quantum computing world.

But more cybersecurity solutions are needed to protect the world from the growing numbers of quantum computers we expect to see in the next 10 years. And to achieve that, more technology innovators need to join the mission to secure our post-quantum world.


Only the finest minds will do

As the technology industry looks to the post-quantum cryptography (PQC) age, adopting cyber security innovation is essential for all organisations. But the world first needs more innovative providers of quantum computing security solutions to protect businesses from potential hacks and attacks.

That requires the finest minds in the quantum technology worldwide. Collaboration and global partnerships are essential to deliver innovation that will harness the potential of quantum technologies as well as protect the threats posed by quantum technologies.

Science transcends borders, and cooperation with partners accelerates the way we bring technologies to market. The current geopolitical situation and war in Ukraine emphasize the need for European sovereignty and partnerships between like-minded countries, researchers, and companies to develop innovations and solutions to keep us safe.

Innovators like PQC aim to be ready for the new quantum era by developing cryptography knowhow. But to ensure the post-quantum future is safe for us all, more companies need to join the call to collaborate with the Finnish quantum crypto community and develop quantum level cybersecurity tools to protect us all from potential hacks and attacks.

The brave new world of quantum computers is almost here. Now is the time for businesses like yours to join the community currently funding innovations and developing international market-ready tools. The technology community needs to start developing cyber security innovations that will allow the world to take full advantage of the opportunities quantum technologies will bring to benefit society and the economy at large.

We cannot afford to wait, the time to act is now.

Regional hooks for markets:

US and Finland recently signed a bilateral quantum R&D cooperation agreement, and QED-C recently accepted Finnish companies as members.

Demand for cybersecurity is high in the UK. The National Cyber Security Centre says post-quantum cryptology (PQC) is the best mitigation.

Japan has a new digital agency and high national interest

Germany – a first test project has been operated by IBM together with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft since mid-June 2021 in Ehningen (Germany).