Cybersecurity and Quantum Computing

The technological trends of this decade are going to be revolutionary. The changes that are coming to the world, inflicted by technology, are going to be just as revolutionary (if not more) as the transition period between the 90s and today. This means that our relationship with technology, ultimately our lifestyles are not going to be the same as they were. Quantum computing is one incredible innovation in a sea of new technology that promises to be a landmark discovery in history.

One thing is for certain, it is that In IT circles the words cybersecurity and quantum computing do not often meet. The reason for this is that quantum computing itself is still a very nebulous concept in its infancy, and far from being commercialized. However, let’s take a look at what quantum computing is and why there is so much skepticism still surrounding it, in order to better understand the importance of this subject.

What is Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing is essentially the next major step in computer processing. Think of it as the equivalent of the transition from ancient, enormous processor rooms that took up entire floors to the miniscule multi-core processors of today. According to IBM, quantum computing functions completely differently than the traditional computers we use: “All computing systems rely on a fundamental ability to store and manipulate information. Current computers manipulate individual bits, which store information as binary 0 and 1 states. Quantum computers leverage quantum mechanical phenomena to manipulate information. To do this, they rely on quantum bits, or qubits.”

In 1959, Nobel laureate and physicist Richard Feynman stated that limits on traditional electronic components will one day be surpassed by extremely powerful computers, which will utilize quantum power and qubits in a process known as superposition. After all this time, quantum computers have remained experimental models at best. Only very recently, as recently as last year, has there been a significant discovery in the quest for building a quantum computer. Google claimed to do this first, with their ‘Sycamore’ chip. This chip would make big waves in the global ‘quantum supremacy’ race, in that it was the first case of a quantum computer processing data otherwise impossible to do on a classical computer.

A little later, another method was developed by a company called IonQ. This was achieved via a process that uses ions trapped in electric fields, or ‘trapped ions’, and many international competitors looked at jumping on the technology to expand it. Today, companies like Honeywell in North Carolina, and specialists and academics from Australia and the UK, among others, are hastily working on winning the ‘race’. Just a few days ago, it was reported that a Chinese startup “launched the country’s first homegrown operating system for a quantum computer, challenging the dominance of the United States in the development of the next-generation machines”.

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is a portmanteau of two words – ‘cyberspace’ and ‘security’. This is also called internet safety, or internet security in most cases. Cybersecurity is a concept pertaining to the protection of devices connected to the internet, as well as the services accessed online from unauthorized access, damage or theft. This ‘protection’ element is not only technical, but can refer to ethical issues such as e.g. our privacy on the internet and how to stay anonymous. So, an antivirus or Virtual Private Network (VPN) is just as much a part of cybersecurity as guarding your anonymity or personal privacy (on social media, for example).

The Connection Between Quantum Computing and Cybersecurity

So, what exactly do the two concepts have to do with each other? Moreover, why is this something that computer giants like IBM are thinking hard about so early on? Quantum computing and cybersecurity are related precisely because of the opportunities that quantum computers will provide (in the not-too-distant future, we hope). There a few points to list regarding the connection;

  • Security-wise, quantum computing will be required to guard against quantum attacks
  • Quantum computing may introduce new risks, because of the speed involved
  • Changes in encryption methods will require a totally new level of cybersecurity
  • Encryption will need to be doubled when quantum computing is implemented
  • Protecting against cybercriminals intercepting quantum research is crucial
  • Quantum computing will bring a new era in cryptography
  • Cybersecurity will be critical in quantum-secure communications
  • Quantum machine learning will potentially be a great weapon against cyberattacks

Let’s think about it like this; Quantum computing is like an autonomous car, and cybersecurity is the due diligence required to control the innovation, precisely because it is so groundbreaking. So, quantum computing is going to usher in a new era in computing efficiency, thereby affecting every part of the industry (from healthcare to construction) and our lives. Cybersecurity awareness on the topic of quantum computing is crucial, because as much as the technology is going to help create infinitely more secure platforms, passwords, encryption and communication efficiency the risks of such a powerful technology falling in the wrong hands is the most important thing the industry needs to be aware of.