Cybersecurity in the Quantum Computing Era

The security of IT systems, often referred to as cybersecurity, is facing completely new challenges with the advent of quantum computing. This ranges in a very wide field from encrypted communication to crypto projects becoming vulnerable.

Through my point of contact at IBM, I have received an information bundle on data security in the context of quantum computing that I would like to share in this short article and add my thoughts.

Quantum Computing Status Quo

It’s a good idea to listen to IBM when they speak on the topic of quantum computing, because IBM is commonly regarded as a leader in quantum computing.

A quantum computer is a new type of computer that does not operate on the basis of electronic switching elements, but uses quantum mechanical states for calculations.

Today, complex setups are necessary to accomplish this flawlessly, even to reach temperatures close to absolute zero (-273 degrees Celcius).

Nevertheless, the massive potential is already visible today, which lies primarily in a high degree of parallelism.

But where does the quantum industry stand today? Well, the silicon industry is working with transistors. Modern PCs have a two-digit billion number of transistors built in.

In comparison, the most modern quantum computer comes from IBM, is nicknamed Osprey and is a 433-qubit machine. In simple terms, qubits are the counterpart to transistors.

IBM’s roadmap to advanced quantum computers. Credit: StoryTK for IBM
IBM’s roadmap to advance quantum computers. Credit: StoryTK for IBM

According to IBM the technology is maturing very quickly and it’s only a matter of time, when the existing IT landscape comes under fire. This leads us to the next chapter, where we take a look of the security risks posed by quantum computers.

Cybersecurity and Quantum Computing

Why are experts concerned about data security in the interaction with quantum computers in the first place?

This is basically because today’s encryption methods take advantage of the limitations of the rather sequential computer architecture.

However sufficiently powerful quantum computers running special algorithms are able to overcome the integer factorization problem and other methods that are used for encrypted communication and many other important data protection mechanisms.

As one can imagine, this is a problem for governments and companies alike.

The risk assessment is just starting and today the quantum computers available do not pose a threat.

Since the topic is multifaceted, the IBM Institute for Business Value has created a report to provide an overview. Beyond marketing, the report contains some interesting findings.

What do you think will come first? Powerful quantum computers or cybersecurity countermeasures?

Let me know here in the comment section or on Twitter.

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