It sounds like something out of a sci fi movie – quantum computers taking over and threatening to hack into our systems and steal our sensitive data. The reality however is that quantum computing is happening. Current predictions have estimates anywhere from as early as 2026 to not till 2030. So, what is it and what do we need to do about it?
What are quantum computers?
To make it very simple, quantum computers are more advanced machines that solve complex problems standard computers are unable to. Not only that but they do it super quickly.
Built on quantum bits (qubits), they use more advanced algorithms to solve computational problems. Due to their enhanced processing ability, they can explore a number of different paths simultaneously. This means that you don’t just get one answer to a problem you get a range of possible answers.
What is cryptography?
Cryptography is technology that that protects our information as it goes through, and is stored, via the internet. It includes simple day-to-day things we do such as emailing, purchasing online and even uploading documents to the cloud.
How will quantum computers impact data security?
Because of their massive processing ability there are concerns that quantum computers will be able to break modern cryptography and therefore put all our data at risk. A code that could have taken years to crack using a standard computer, for example, may be able to be broken in seconds.
The risk however is not just in a few years’ time. Some attackers are using the opportunity to steal data now and hold on to it – until quantum computers are available to decrypt the data. This vulnerability is referred to Harvest now, Decrypt Later (HNDL). Entities that have data with long standing value are particularly susceptible such those in government, finance and healthcare.
Fundamentally therefore we need to be concerned about it and acting on it now.
What can be done about it?
As with any future risk, understanding the problem and preparing for it is key. Cyber security experts like Unsung and our vendor partners are working hard behind the scenes to stay at the forefront of the threats that quantum computers pose and look at what can be done to mitigate the risk.
Part of the solution is the development of post quantum cryptography. This is a new form of cryptography that is designed to protect systems from quantum attacks.
To prepare for the migration to post quantum cryptography organisations need to start planning now. Getting plans underway to evolve the underlying IT estates cryptography base, is a start down the path to readiness. It will also make it easier to be agile and move to post-quantum cryptography.
As PKI specialists, Unsung can do a readiness assessment to help discover what your cryptographic posture is and help you to develop a plan to be crypto-agile, post-quantum ready.
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