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Organizations are preparing cyber attacks from quantum computers.



GCHQ Government Communications Headquarters This aerial photograph was taken on October 10, 2005, among houses and a car park.

David Goddard | Getty Images

LONDON — A tiny UK company called Arqit is quietly preparing businesses and governments for what it sees as the next big threat to cyber defense: quantum computers.

It is still an incredibly new field of research, however, in some tech industries, including Google, Microsoft and IBM, believe quantum computing will become a reality in the next decade. And that can be daunting news for corporate cybersecurity.

Arqit co-founder and chairman David Williams said quantum computers would be millions of times faster than classical computers. And will be able to break into one of the most widely used encryption methods.

“The traditional encryption that we all use to keep our secrets safe is called PKI,”

; or public key infrastructure. Williams told CNBC in an interview. “It was invented in the 70s.”

“PKI was originally designed to secure the communication of two computers,” added Williams. “It’s not designed for a hyper-connected world where billions of devices around the world communicate in complex interactions.”

Arqit, which is planning to go public through a merger with a naked audit firm. The likes of BT, Sumitomo Corporation, the British Government and the European Space Agency are counted among the clients, some of which worked for the UK intelligence agency GCHQ. “Stealth Mode”, which is a temporary secret. And listing in the stock market is not on time.

last month Ransomware attacks organizations from the colonial pipeline from the largest fuel pipeline in the United States to JBS, the world’s largest meat package company.

Meanwhile, Microsoft and several US government agencies have been hit by attacks on IT company SolarWinds. President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order aimed at increasing US cyber defenses.

What is quantum computing?

Quantum computing aims to apply the principles of quantum physics, a scientific material that attempts to describe the world at the atomic and subatomic scale with computers.

Whereas today’s computers use zeros and zeros to store data. Quantum computers rely on quantum bits or qubits. This may consist of a combination of one and zero simultaneously. Known in the field as stacking, these qubits can also be linked together through a phenomenon known as entanglement.

Simply put, quantum computers are more powerful than today’s machines. and can solve complex computational problems much faster.

Kasper Rasmussen, associate professor of computer science at the University of Oxford, told CNBC that quantum computers are designed to “It performs some tasks much faster than a classic computer.”

That’s not to say they’ll be able to solve everything. “This is not the case of: ‘This is a quantum computer. So it can run any application you put in a lot faster.’ That’s not an idea,” Rasmussen said.

Experts say this can be a problem for modern encryption standards.

“When you and I use PKI encryption, we have half the difficult math problem. That’s prime factorization,” Williams told CNBC. “You gave me the numbers. Then how do I find out which number is prime to find new numbers? Classic computers can’t break it. But quantum computers can do it.”

Williams believes his company has found a solution. Instead of using public-key cryptography, Arqit sends symmetric encryption keys — long random numbers — via satellite, known as “quantum key distribution.” Virgin Orbit, which invests in Arqit as part of the SPAC deal, plans to open Satellites from Cornwall, England by 2023

Why is it important?

Some experts say it may take some time for quantum computers to arrive in a way that could pose a threat to existing cyber defenses. Rasmussen did not expect them to exist in any meaningful way. For at least another 10 years, but he was unhappy.

“If we accept the fact that quantum computers will exist in 10 years, anyone who is foresight to record important conversations now might be in a position to crack them when quantum computers are born. up,” Rasmussen said.

“Public key encryption is everywhere in our digital world. from your bank card to how you connect to the Internet, to your car keys, to IOT (Internet of Things) devices,” Ali Kaafarani, CEO and founder of cybersecurity startup PQShield, told CNBC.

US Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology It is looking to improve standards in cryptography to include what is known as post-quantum cryptography. An algorithm that can protect against attacks from quantum computers.

Kaafarani expects NIST to decide on the new standard by the end of 2021, but he cautions: “For me, the challenge is not a quantum threat. And how can we create a secure encryption method? We can solve that problem.”

“The challenge now is how businesses must prepare for the transition to a new standard,” Kaafarani said. “Lessons from the past prove that it is too slow and it takes years and decades to switch from one algorithm. It’s an algorithm.”

Williams thinks that companies Need to be prepared now He added that the creation of a post-quantum algorithm that uses public-key cryptography and thus “More complicated” is not a solution. He alluded to a report from NIST that outlined the challenges with post-quantum cryptographic solutions.


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