What is Quantum Computing?
Before we begin on this topic, let us try understand the origin of the idea quantum. Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics that describes the behaviour of matter and energy at the smallest scales, such as atoms and subatomic particles. Quantum computing was adopted from this theory and is a branch of computing that utilizes principles of quantum mechanics to perform complex computations more efficiently than classical computers.
However, quantum computing is still in its early stages, and building practical and scalable quantum computers remains a significant challenge. Researchers and scientists worldwide are actively working on developing quantum hardware, error correction techniques, and quantum algorithms to unlock the full potential of quantum computing in the future.
Quantum Computing in Cybersecurity
Quantum computing is a technology that helps to solve complex problems that to conventional take hours into minutes. It has the advantage to exponentially deliver results for certain classified problems. This technology will have a profound implication on cybersecurity.
Qubits are the building blocks of quantum computers. They are naturally prone to instability. Due to this factor, they tend to lose the information they gather quickly as a result of continuous transmission of information with their surrounding qubits. In order to prevent this data loss, they should be isolated from their environment. This is a complex method that requires high financial support. This can be a tricky business, because as the number of qubits increase the noise also increases. Hence it is essential to implement complex error detection and correction methods.
What is quantum cryptography?
Entanglement is another key concept in quantum computing. Qubits are connected in a way that their states are linked together. While measuring one qubit, you instantly know the state of the other qubit. Entanglement is crucial for applications like secure communication and encryption in the field of quantum cryptography.
Quantum computing affects 4 different areas of cybersecurity
- Quantum random number generation is crucial for secure cryptography.
- Quantum-secure communications, like Quantum Key Distribution (QKD)
- One controversial aspect of quantum computing is its potential to break public-key cryptography, specifically the RSA algorithm, which is widely used in the $4 trillion ecommerce industry.
- Machine learning has transformed cybersecurity by detecting and stopping new types of attacks.
Traditional random number generators use algorithms called pseudo-random number generators, which are not genuinely random and could be vulnerable to attacks. Some companies are creating quantum random number generators that use quantum optics to produce truly random numbers. These products are already being used commercially.
QKD focuses on sharing secret keys to ensure private information exchange. This uses principles from quantum mechanics to enable secure sharing of encrypted keys and can detect breaches. QKD is mainly used for transmitting data through fibres over short distances, typically tens of kilometres. There have been successful tests using satellites to transmit data over thousands of kilometres. KETS Quantum Security and Toshiba are leading companies in this field.
RSA relies on the difficulty of factoring the product of two prime numbers, which is a complex problem for classical computers. It would take trillions of years for a traditional computer mechanism to break RSA encryption. A quantum computer with around 4,000 error-free qubits could defeat RSA in just seconds. Currently, the world’s largest quantum computer has less than 100 qubits, but IBM and Google have plans to achieve 1 million qubits by 2030. While a million-qubit quantum computer is still years away, the time frame could be shortened. This poses a potential risk to sensitive financial and national security data, as it could be stolen and decrypted once a powerful quantum computer becomes available. To address this threat, algorithms that are resistant to quantum computers, known as post-quantum cryptography, are being developed. Companies like PQShield are at the forefront of this field.
Training complex models requires a lot of data and energy. Quantum machine learning is an emerging field that could lead to faster and more efficient algorithms, helping us identify and stop cyberattacks more effectively.
Challenges in Quantum Computing
Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize cybersecurity, but there are significant challenges to overcome. The main challenge is to create enough fault-tolerant qubits for powerful quantum computing. Companies like IBM, Google, Honeywell, and Amazon are investing in this area. Currently, programming quantum computers is done using individual logic gates, but for larger quantum computers, this approach becomes impractical. IBM and Classiq are working on more efficient programming methods. Another challenge is the lack of skilled professionals in the field. Efforts from governments, universities, industry, and communities like IBM Qiskit are needed to train the next generation of quantum computing experts. The National Quantum Initiative Act in the United States is a positive step towards addressing this issue. Collaboration is essential to fully harness the potential of quantum computing.
The quantum revolution is here, and while large-scale fault-tolerant quantum computers may take some time, even near-term quantum computers offer great benefits. Though it may impact current encryption, quantum computing can also greatly enhance communication security and privacy. Organizations need to plan, considering the long-term risks and benefits of quantum technology, and take proactive steps to be prepared for the quantum revolution.