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The Quantum Threat: Our Government Knows More Than You Do

The Quantum Threat: Our Government Knows More Than You Do

By Skip Sanzeri, COO and Founder, QuSecure, Inc.

Quantum computers are extremely powerful machines that utilize subatomic properties providing amazing potential to change the way that we process information and to improve our world. However, in addition to quantum computers running applications that will generate world-changing capabilities, they will be used as weapons by our adversaries.

One such weaponization will materialize through quantum computers breaking the existing cybersecurity the world uses today. The Department of the Defense’s (DoD) primary concern is that a weaponized quantum computer could be used to break the encryption that protects sensitive government data and communications. In short, quantum computers will threaten our data and privacy to the extent that this will force the largest technology upgrade cycle in computer history.

Fortunately, the U.S. government has recognized this critical issue, and is now dealing with this threat. What they know that you don’t is that adversarial nation-states are spending tens of billions of dollars, and deploying thousands of computer scientists, PhDs and quantum programmers to build a quantum computer that will break all the world’s current encryption. These same nation-states are harvesting data today at amazing rates via listening devices around the world in order to decrypt that data when they have quantum capability.

Currently encryption is difficult to break with standard computers. However, via Shor’s algorithm it has been proven that quantum computers will be able to decrypt this stolen information. So by building a powerful quantum computer, these nation-states will be able to decrypt data that may still have 25, 50 or even 75 years of value remaining. Think in terms of military secrets, banking information, healthcare information and other personal information that has been stolen. Much of this information needs decades of secrecy and if decrypted, it could be used for great harm.

The fact is our government, led by our intelligence organizations and communities, knows that these huge quantum computing investments of resources by our adversaries provide a clear and present danger. Our government just knows more than you do. This is evidenced by the warnings that have come out in the past eight months with increasing velocity, where the U.S. State Department and other federal agencies have mandated quantum cyber upgrade policies. The State Department issued two separate memos, and NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) finalized algorithm choices for post-quantum cybersecurity (PQC) just this past July.

Then on Aug. 24, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) raised the red flag regarding the quantum computing threat by releasing a paper providing updated advice on how any organization with critical infrastructure and data should get ready for security risks from quantum computers. It is now no longer a matter of if the U.S. needs to upgrade its federal agency systems to PQC, but only a matter of when. According to the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, “The transition to post-quantum encryption algorithms is as much dependent on the development of such algorithms as it is on their adoption. While the former is already ongoing, planning for the latter remains in its infancy. We must prepare for it now to protect the confidentiality of data that already exists today and remains sensitive in the future.”

All of this has been done to address the quantum threat which, based on findings from the intelligence community, could be only a few years away. According to Britain’s MI6 Chief Richard Moore, “Our adversaries are pouring money and ambition into mastering artificial intelligence, quantum computing and synthetic biology because they know…this will give them leverage.” Governments and commercial organizations that are responsible for securing sensitive data should not underestimate the threat of quantum computers. The science to support quantum computing is well-founded and quantum computers may be a single breakthrough away from cracking modern cryptography. Quantum computing is not a question of if, but when.

Some believe that building a quantum computer powerful enough to break encryption is a decade or more away. No one knows for sure, however nation-states are finding clever ways of stringing quantum computers together to enable processing via an aggregate number of systems, instead of relying on a single developed quantum computer, enabling the quantum systems to operate in a parallel fashion.

China has proven they can entangle sub-atomic particles and maintain that entanglement over 12.5 kilometers, which means two different quantum computers could share the same state. This capability would enable decentralized operation of quantum computers, which would utilize distributed design with the same quantum computer transmitting information from one quantum computer to another as needed. This means that we could be closer to more quantum power and the subsequent associated threats to standard encryption than expected.

It is advisable that federal agencies, commercial organizations and other infrastructure providers begin to immediately assess potential vulnerabilities in their current encryption and cybersecurity practices, and start planning for post-quantum encryption. Post-quantum resilience is needed today.

About the Author

The Quantum Threat: Our Government Knows More Than You DoSkip Sanzeri has been an entrepreneur since 1986 and currently is the Founder, Board Chair, and COO at QuSecure, a top post-quantum cyber-security company using post-quantum cryptography to help secure the US military, government and commercial businesses. Founder and Board Chair Quantum Thought a leading venture studio focused on quantum computing applications and is also the Founder and Partner at Multiverse Capital. Skip is a co-author of “Quantum Design Sprint: A Workbook for Designing a Quantum Computing Application and Disruptive Business Model”. Skip started his entrepreneurial career at age 26 when he founded, funded and built 6 Gold’s Gyms, re-branded as California Athletic Clubs which were later acquired by 24 Hour Fitness. After that, Skip joined (backed by Sequoia Capital), which was subsequently bought by Lycos.

Twitter – @sanzeri

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