Advances in quantum computing and the associated technologies gives rise to endless possibilities in the not-too-distant future.
The potential applications and benefits derived from quantum are huge with promises of significant advances in a myriad of areas that span our everyday lives. Quantum computing brings with it the prospect of significant scientific and drugs breakthroughs that could transform healthcare.
The ability to plan and manage huge financial portfolios could lead to improved financial security in retirement. And the possibility to create algorithms that can quickly plan the most efficient use of resources in areas like public services, such as policing and healthcare, are all realistic possibilities that can realised with quantum computing.
These benefits and their potential to transform lives are unequivocal. But what impact will quantum computing have on encryption methods?
Could today’s encryption methods become obsolete?
The security of today’s current range of cryptographic algorithms and encryption solutions relies on the difficulty conventional computers have with factoring large numbers. Quantum computing has no such difficulties and is able to factor large numbers incredibly quickly. As a result, today’s encryption methods could be rendered obsolete with the advent of quantum.
However, it isn’t clear how soon a viable quantum computer running at such scale will be a practical reality. While the threat posed by quantum is clearly on the horizon, the general consensus seems to be that the likelihood of this technology being available within even five years is optimistic.
But there is also an alternative view which would seem to suggest that reliable quantum computing availability, capable of breaking current day encryption solutions, is still decades away.
The search for quantum-proof encryption…
Nevertheless, the threat is real, and action needs to be taken to prepare for the eventuality. Industry and academia have to develop and/or commercialise quantum-proof forms of encryption algorithms, ideally within the next five to ten years, or as a minimum within the next few decades, depending on your point of view.
A number of initiatives are already underway in the search for quantum-proof encryption.
The UK National Quantum Technology Programme has been formed and funds collaborative work in the areas of post-quantum cryptography and quantum key distribution. It has also funded the establishment of a national network of four Quantum Technology Hubs with leading academic institutions, each focussing on differing areas of quantum technology including Networked Quantum Information Technologies and the Quantum Communications Hub.
Meanwhile, in the USA, the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) is running a competition to identify the best quantum-proof means of encrypting data. To date, a total of 26 new algorithms have been selected to progress through to the next stage where they will be subjected to a further 12 months of analysis and evaluation in a wide variety of systems and scenarios.
Once these solutions are proven to be secure and capable of operating at the performance levels required, government and industry regulatory bodies have to write and approve new standards for their design and use. Businesses, governments and service providers then have to roll out these new solutions across their estates.
Find out more…
Fujitsu is acutely aware of the potential security risks posed to asymmetric public key encryption solutions by the development of quantum computers. We are engaging with industry, academia and regulators as they continue to investigate and develop quantum- proof solutions.
To find out more about the initiatives eluded to here, or the wider quantum computing storm on the horizon, download our latest White Paper.
Mark Wixey has 30 years’ experience in operating, supporting, and designing high security IT systems and services across the UK Public sector and UK and international commercial businesses. Since joining the Fujitsu Defence & National Security business unit Mark has assumed responsibility for the department’s strategy and portfolio in relation to cyber along with managing strategic technical security relationships with partners and UK government. In June 2019 Mark was awarded the status of Fujitsu Distinguished Engineer - https://www.fujitsu.com/uk/innovation/fujitsu-distinguished-engineers/
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