Dr Ali El Kaafarani explains the devastating cybersecurity threat posed by quantum computers.
Quantum computing attracts a lot of buzz – and rightly so. The arrival of full-scale quantum computers will see positive transformation across various industries, including manufacturing and engineering, thanks to their incredible processing power.
However, despite their enormous potential, the scary reality is that these super powerful machines also pose a significant security threat. Quantum computers will easily be able to break the public-key encryption widely relied on today to protect sensitive information, compromising its security altogether.
The threat is so severe that the US National Security Agency (NSA) warned in 2015 that we “must act now” to prevent it, sparking a global race to develop and standardise a new generation of encryption – post-quantum cryptography – that will protect sensitive information from the security challenges of both today and tomorrow.
With some experts predicting that full-scale quantum computers could arrive within a decade, getting quantum-secure cybersecurity in place early is absolutely critical. For manufacturers, failing to prepare could hold devastating consequences.
Why does this matter?
Manufacturers are already inherently vulnerable – the sector is the third most hit by cyberattacks in the UK, according to IBM. With rising digital transformation such as automation, IoT and networked supply chains, new vulnerabilities are being added at every stage of the manufacturing process. Throw quantum computers into the mix, and the entire system is vulnerable to attack.
For many manufacturers working in commercially-sensitive industries, the number one concern is IP theft and cyberespionage, which can lead to millions, if not billions, of pounds in lost R&D every year. With so much at stake, those working within highly advanced industries (such as pharmaceuticals or aerospace) will be first on the quantum attacker’s list, and risk devastating losses.
For manufacturers working in sectors relevant to national security, the threat is acute. Hostile nation states may well be the first to develop full-scale quantum computers, using them to conduct cyber attacks. That means any manufacturer involved in the defence supply chain for countries like the UK and US is at high risk. It goes without saying that the potential consequences of this kind of attack are catastrophic.
What can be done?
Above all, the most important first step to protecting your organisation is understanding the threat, and opening up a conversation within your security and executive teams before it’s too late.
To help you understand the quantum threat to your business, and what you can do to prevent it, a team of world-class cryptographers and engineers has put together a new white paper series detailing everything you need to know.
Knowledge is a powerful tool. Once you’ve got to grips with the reality of the quantum threat and the solutions on offer, it won’t seem so daunting.
Dr Ali El Kaafarani is CEO and co-founder of cybersecurity company PQShield, the experts in post-quantum cryptography.