Organization prepares for cyber attacks from quantum computers

In this aerial photograph taken on October 10, 2005, the GCHQ of Government Communications Headquarters is located in a house and parking lot.

David Goddard | Getty Images

London — A lesser-known British company called Arqit is quietly preparing companies and governments for quantum computers, the next major threat to cyber defense.

It’s still an incredibly young field of study, but some in the tech industry Google, Microsoft And IBM — We believe that quantum computing will become a reality in the next decade. And that may be worrisome news for your organization’s cybersecurity.

David Williams, co-founder and chairman of Arqit, states that quantum computers are millions of times faster than traditional computers and can break into one of the most widely used cryptographic methods.

“The legacy cryptography we all use to keep our secrets secure is called PKI,” Williams, a public key infrastructure, told CNBC in an interview. “It was invented in the 70’s.”

“PKI was originally designed to protect the communication between two computers,” Williams added. “It wasn’t designed for the hyper-connected world, where one billion devices around the world communicate in complex interactions.”

Arqit Merger with blank check companyCounts customers such as BT, Sumitomo Corporation, the UK Government and the European Space Agency. Part of that team previously worked for the British intelligence agency GCHQ. The company just recently got out of “stealth mode” (a state of temporary secrecy) and its listing on the stock market was no longer timely.

Last month, there were a series of catastrophic ransomware attacks on the organization. Colonial pipeline, U.S. Largest Fuel Pipeline, JBS, The world’s largest meat packaging company..

Microsoft Meanwhile, some U.S. government agencies Attack on IT company SolarWinds..President Joe Biden Recently signed an executive order It aims to strengthen US cyber defenses.

What is Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing aims to apply the principles of quantum physics (the body of science that seeks to describe the world at the atomic and subatomic particle level) to computers.

Today’s computers use 1s and 0s to store information, but quantum computers rely on qubits or qubits. Qubits can be composed of combinations of 1s and 0s at the same time, and are known in this field as superpositions. These qubits can also be linked to each other through a phenomenon called entanglement.

Simply put, quantum computers are much more powerful than today’s machines, meaning they can solve complex calculations much faster.

Kasper Rasmussen, an associate professor of computer science at Oxford University, told CNBC that quantum computers are “designed to perform certain operations much faster than classic computers.”

I’m not saying they can solve all the problems. “This isn’t the case:” It’s a quantum computer, so it runs the applications you put there much faster. “That’s not an idea,” he said.

According to experts, this can be a problem for the latest cryptographic standards.

“When you and I use PKI cryptography, we do half of the difficult math problems. It’s prime factorization,” Williams told CNBC. “You give me a number and I calculate a prime number to calculate a new number. Classic computers can’t break it, but quantum computers do.”

Williams believes his company has found a solution. Instead of relying on public key cryptography, Arqit sends symmetric cryptographic keys (long random numbers) over the satellite. This is called “quantum key distribution”. Virgin Orbit, which invested in Arqit as part of its SPAC contract, plans to launch a satellite from Cornwall, England by 2023.

Why is it important?

Some experts say it will take some time for quantum computers to finally arrive in ways that can threaten existing cyber defenses. Rasmussen does not expect them to exist in a meaningful way for at least another decade. But he is not happy.

“If we accept the fact that quantum computers will exist ten years from now, anyone with the foresight to record important conversations could be able to decipher them when quantum computers emerge,” Rasmussen said. He said.

“Public key cryptography is literally everywhere in the digitized world, from bank cards to how to connect to the Internet, car keys, and Internet of Things (IOT) devices,” said Cybersecurity CEO and Founder. One Ali Kaafarani said. Startup PQShield told CNBC.

The US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology is considering updating its encryption standards to include what is called post-quantum cryptography, an algorithm that can protect against attacks from quantum computers.

Kaafarani expects NIST to set a new standard by the end of 2021. But he warns. “For me, the challenge is not the quantum threat, but how we can build a secure cryptosystem. We have solved it.”

“The current challenge is how companies need to prepare for the transition to new standards,” says Kafarani. “The lessons of the past prove that it’s too late to switch from one algorithm to another, and it can take years or even decades.”

Williams believes companies need to be ready now, adding that adopting public-key cryptography to form “more complex” post-quantum algorithms is not the solution. He hinted at a report from NIST pointing out the challenges of post-quantum cryptography solutions.

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