The drive to create the first quantum computer has been viewed as the new arms race. But that drive is underpinning another, more pressing race: quantum cybersecurity. Put simply, when quantum computers become reality, modern cybersecurity will be completely futile.
According to a new report from ABI Research, quantum computing is still theoretical, but not for much longer – most experts now agree that the creation of a quantum computer is simply a matter of engineering, and that the theoretical application will happen.
There’s less agreement on the timing – optimistic estimates for commercialization by the private sector vary between five and 15 years, while more conservative estimates by academics put it at 15 to 25 years.
Michela Menting, research director at ABI Research estimates that the first attack-capable quantum machines will make their market debut by 2030. “When they do, even the latest and best in class cybersecurity technologies will be vulnerable.”
The race to quantum supremacy is real, Mentings says. Governmental R&D is accelerating the crystallization of the quantum computer, with more than $1.6 billion already invested globally. The potentially drastic repercussions on cybersecurity is equally real and has led to the focus on quantum-safe cryptography. Also known as post quantum cryptography, such research looks to the development of new cryptographic algorithms that could withstand breaking by quantum computers, ideally before such computers become commercially available. Standards agencies the world over, including the NIST and ETSI, are focusing their efforts on developing appropriate standards as time grows increasingly shorter.
Beyond and ahead of quantum computers, the use of the theory has also aided in developing new cryptographic techniques, notably quantum key distribution (QKD). Considered as a type of quantum-safe cryptography, QKD will likely be commercialized before the advent of quantum computers, because it is achievable using current technologies such as lasers and fiber optics. In that sense, QKD is one of the first quantum theories to find real-world applications.
Heavy private sector investment is going into quantum R&D. Since 2012, VC funds have pumped over $334 million into companies specializing in the space. Those standing out in the space include CipherQ, CryptaLabs, CryptoExperts, ID Quantique, ISARA, MagiQ Technologies, Post-Quantum Solutions, Qubitekk, QuintessenceLabs, QuNu Labs, and SecureRF.
“The transition to quantum resistant cryptography is bound to take time but enterprises should already start considering how to address this future security gap in in their risk assessments and pay attention to both standard developments and market solutions,” Menting says.