Forbes writer Arthur Herman discusses the consequences of a future quantum computing attack on financial infrastructure and/or the power grid, referring to recent remarks by U.S. President Joe Biden during his visit to the umbrella organization of American intelligence agencies. Herman describes today's cyber world as a battleground that the advent of quantum technology will only make more dangerous for the unwary. A "quantum catastrophe" is a potential danger, he said.
Herman cites "post-quantum cryptography" as the great new challenge in cybersecurity. He distinguishes two ways to protect data and networks from the threat. One, he says, is to develop complex algorithms that scientists and cryptographers believe will withstand a future quantum computer. The other approach is to use quantum random number generators (QRNG), which use the randomness of quantum physics itself to generate truly random numbers for encrypting messages and data that are truly secure. QRNG also forms the backbone of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), the technology that uses the principles of quantum mechanics to distribute these random keys to users.
Herman mentions just two new companies, each with different approaches: Quantum eMotion represents the quantum-based hardware solution, and private U.S. company QuSecure is developing quantum-resistant algorithms.
Quantum security as a plug-and-play solution
Canada-based Quantum eMotion took the QRNG approach without relying on QKD for implementation, he said. Instead, the random number generator is embedded in a portable USB key or microprocessor chip, making it literally a plug-and-play solution to protect against cyber hackers. Quantum eMotion is based in Montreal and draws on decades of research by physics professor Bertrand Roulet at the University of Sherbrooke. Quantum eMotion's goal is to extend the benefits of quantum randomness to cell phones, computers, the Internet of Things (IoT), the blockchain, and the cloud without relying on the often-expensive infrastructure and design architecture that QKD requires.
Quantum eMotion is also the only QRNG company in the world to trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange, he said. Herman sees this as the start of a trend and views the listing as a sign that the quantum communications technology sector is gaining maturity.
Herman cites the U.S. company QuSecure as an example of the software-based path. QuSecure uses what it calls quantum transport layer security (QTLS), which enables quantum-resistant algorithms to protect data regardless of where it is on the network. In other words, rather than ripping out and replacing legacy PKI systems one by one, QuSecure's approach allows every layer in the network to benefit from the encryption protection provided by the company's software.
QuSecure's system is also designed to work with quantum random number generators to produce truly random keys within the software-based application. The company's website says it can generate up to 60,000 keys per second, which means lower latency, or what it calls "handshake time," authenticating users at both ends of the secure connection.
From a policy perspective, he said, what is fascinating about both companies is that they are developing "hybrid" solutions to the quantum security problem. Herman believes that in the long run we will see a convergence of software-based and hardware-based approaches based on QRNG/QKD. Companies were particularly looking for ways to make quantum security more cost-effective.
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