Ensuring that data is successfully encrypted and thus inaccessible to attackers is key to maintaining a strong cyber defence posture. To that end, cryptographic technologies are widely employed to authenticate sources, protect stored information, and share data in a confidential and secure manner. Algorithms currently in use are so advanced and have revolutionized data security to such an extent that even the fastest classical computers could take years, in some cases decades, to unlock encrypted files. As a result, rather than attempt brute force decryption, hackers have instead preferred to steal encryption keys or find weak links in a security network to bypass secure channels and steal decrypted data.
For decades now, quantum computing has been hailed as one of the next big revolutions. Quantum computing is not just faster than traditional computing methods, but a fundamentally different approach to solve seemingly intractable problems. The mathematical operations that most traditional cryptographic algorithms rely on could be cracked with a sufficiently strong quantum computer.
With the potential that quantum could have on the international economy, it is no surprise that billions of dollars are being invested to fund research in this emerging technology area. In the United States, efforts are being led by academia, government labs and technology companies across the industrial base. However, China is investing heavily and is close behind. President Xi Jinping’s government has spent more than $10 billion to set up the National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, and at the current rate will spend more on quantum research than any other nation by 2030.
However, given the pace of advancement and magnitude of investments by peer competitors, we should not wait to implement quantum-resistant algorithms on our security networks. There are steps we can take now to guard against future quantum computational capabilities, including the implementation of post-quantum cryptography algorithms that are secure against both classical and quantum computers.
It would be difficult to predict when quantum computing will provide our adversaries, or even bad actors, with the ability to creak previously unbreakable codes. But regardless of the timeline for that threat, we can take steps today that will significantly reduce the potential risks posed by that future capability.