Quantum computing: The Data Security Conundrum

Clyde Williamson and Nathan Vega 8 February 2024

Quantum computing: The Data Security Conundrum

We carry this guest article about the cybersecurity implications of what is called quantumn computing.

In the field known as quantum computing – which according to one definition from IBM is a “rapidly-emerging technology that harnesses the laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems too complex for classical computers" – how does this technology (however or whenever it comes along) affect security? Cybersecurity is a major spending and operational concern for wealth managers and private banks. To explore this topic is Clyde Williamson, chief security architect, and Nathan Vega, vice president, product marketing and strategy at Protegrity.

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Ensuring that operating systems and data are secure are among the greatest challenges of digital technology. In response to this, sophisticated algorithms have been designed to encrypt data and protect it through frameworks known as symmetric cryptography. While this has proven successful, advancements in quantum computing which utilises quantum mechanics to solve complex problems faster than conventional computers could potentially turn data security on its head.

IBM, Microsoft and Google have already turned their attention to quantum computing and, as a result, commercially viable quantum computers are not too far from becoming a reality. In fact, the global quantum computing market size in terms of revenue, which was estimated to be $866 million in 2023, is poised to reach $4.375 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 38.3 per cent from 2023 to 2028. 

This is raising concerns that these computers might pose a threat to current public-key cryptography algorithms and potentially expose sensitive data. As such, data security needs to be a step ahead, with more advanced cryptographic algorithms that minimise potential risks and ensure the safeguarding of data in a quantum computing world.

A crack in our data security
Quantum-resistant data security is a concern as current approaches to data protection use algorithms that traditional computing power would take several years to crack. The improved processing power of quantum computing would, however, reduce this time significantly and its ability to solve mathematical problems and speed up certain complex mathematical computations could result in the encryption algorithms that we use now becoming obsolete. This would create risk detrimental to businesses, universities, governments and more.

This is supported by a Forrester study that anticipates that quantum computers will be able to crack all current crypto systems in the next five to 30 years, with a majority claiming that there is an up to 70 per cent chance of this occurring in the next five years. As such, it is no wonder that Gartner has stressed the importance of preparing for quantum’s impact by encouraging the promotion of privacy-enhancing technologies in anticipation of the quantum era. This is a valid suggestion as some classical cryptography algorithms will not be able to stand up against quantum computing’s processing abilities and will succumb to a brute-force assault.

However, while quantum computing is widely considered a potential risk for data security, it could potentially also be a part of the solution, as quantum cybersecurity may provide a more robust and compelling opportunity to safeguard critical data.

Quantum cyber security
According to IBM, quantum computing can aid in providing a more robust way of safeguarding critical data than current offerings. In particular, quantum machine learning and quantum random number generation are believed to provide a viable solution to securing data while at the same time wielding the power to detect and deflect quantum-era cyber attacks before they can cause harm.

As encryption is often a key component of data security, adopting quantum-resistant cryptography will be critical to protecting people and adhering to privacy regulations. However, as quantum computing is not widely used as yet, it is unlikely that we will be able to harness quantum computing power to develop a quantum-proof approach to data security for a few years. 

Thus, before quantum computing becomes widely adopted, most likely as Quantum-Computing-as-a-Service, it is critical to stay a step ahead of the potential threat and develop a quantum-proof solution now, rather than wait for quantum computers to break the current data encryption models.

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