Top Potential Risks Associated With Quantum Computing
Quantum computing holds immense promise – from drug discovery and portfolio management models, to optimizing supply chains. But the technology also poses certain risks.
Quantum computers offer solutions to complex problems that are intractable for traditional computers, making them invaluable tools in many industries. But hackers could take advantage of them to bypass data encryption protocols and air gaps with greater ease.
1. Unreliable computations
Quantum computing will enable computers to process information simultaneously in multiple dimensions. This could significantly accelerate calculations in fields like physics, aerospace engineering and cybersecurity; but could also undermine data encryption protocols and break through air gaps to give hackers easy access to private information.
A quantum computer could perform exponentially more operations than current machines, rendering most widely-used cryptographic algorithms like RSA and Diffie-Hellman unsafe. There has even been developed a theoretical quantum algorithm capable of finding prime factors of any given number–an essential step towards breaking encryption.
As the world prepares to transition to quantum computing, banks and financial services organizations have taken steps to mitigate risk. Bank of America, JP Morgan, and HSBC are among the many firms taking steps to ensure they can transition safely into an economy dominated by quantum computers.
Though quantum computing may appear daunting, Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) can take four steps now to prepare their organizations for its arrival. These include adopting hybrid solutions that combine classical with post-quantum technologies; this will provide protection from common attacks while giving businesses flexibility when quantum technology finally arrives and prevent supply chain attacks which hackers commonly employ to gain entry to company networks.
2. Unbreakable encryption
Quantum computing’s unbreakable encryption poses an existential threat to current encryption systems. Though no exact date has been given when practical quantum computers will become powerful enough to break today’s algorithms, companies storing or communicating sensitive information with value beyond 10-20 years should address this risk as part of their strategy; such information includes banking data or national security secrets.
Cybercriminals may use quantum computing to steal encrypted information and decipher it at their leisure – this poses a grave risk that could severely alter how we do business online. Luckily, researchers have developed safeguards against quantum computing; though their solutions don’t completely mitigate risk.
Quantum computers will also have the potential to compromise other algorithms used to secure public keys and protect sensitive information stored on servers, creating major challenges for organizations who rely on these methods of security for their systems and servers. Transitioning to post-quantum encryption should become a top priority; companies should start formulating plans now to address this change.
3. Attacks against supply chain
Quantum computing offers immense promise to business, from advanced drug discovery and analysis for financial trading to enhanced supply chain management systems. But its exponential processing ability also poses serious threats that threaten current encryption standards and create new risks for organizations.
Quantum computers have the capability of breaking open most current asymmetric encryption algorithms such as RSA, Diffie-Hellman and Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC). If implemented, this could potentially expose sensitive company data stored internally or transmitted over networks to third parties using “harvest now, decrypt later” attacks – potentially exposing a company’s sensitive data for possible theft by attackers.
As this technology matures, cyber attacks will likely become far more frequent over time. Already attackers have begun targeting companies through their suppliers by exploiting vulnerabilities in software and services used by them – as was evidenced in the SolarWinds breach. With quantum computing becoming even easier to conduct such attacks, their risk will significantly increase and breaches become even more likely.
Even though preparing for these attacks may seem impossible at the moment, all organizations should actively consider their options and review any encryption algorithms or third-party providers being utilized within their business and third-party providers. Furthermore, considering solutions built upon post-quantum security such as crypto-agility could enable organizations to upgrade to safer alternatives should one become vulnerable over time.
4. Unlocking air gaps
As quantum computing develops, it could one day be used to breach current encryption protocols – potentially exposing personal information, medical data and company intellectual property to cybercriminals. Furthermore, distributed ledgers like cryptocurrencies and digital signatures – which have become common practices in countries like the US for verifying transactions – would become vulnerable, while also undermining security of ePassports, ID cards and other government applications using current digital encryption systems.
This poses a grave danger as commercial quantum computers (CRQCs) will likely take years to develop, yet their qubits are highly vulnerable to vibration or temperature change and decoherence – the state they must remain in to complete tasks effectively. That is why such machines must be stored in supercooled fridges or vacuum chambers.
Quantum computers will revolutionize many industries with their ability to quickly process vast amounts of data at once. Their application could significantly speed up AI training, hasten drug discovery trials, enhance automation in specialty chemical production facilities and support tail-event defense trading/risk analysis in financial markets while enabling more comprehensive supply chain analytics in finance.
Companies developing quantum computers must find a balance between social needs and investor demands when developing these computers. Many investors prioritize environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics when making investment decisions while organizations may prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as key goals of their work.