• Tue. Nov 28th, 2023

    Critical Thought

    Critical thoughts on quantum technologies

    The Urgent Need to Prepare for a Quantum Cyberattack

    BySam Figg

    Nov 21, 2023
    The Urgent Need to Prepare for a Quantum Cyberattack

    In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, the threat of a quantum cyberattack looms large. While it may not be at the forefront of our federal government’s cybersecurity concerns, the risks associated with quantum computing demand swift action. Our nation faces three compelling reasons to address this emerging menace:

    1. Quantum computing is advancing faster than anticipated.
    The development of quantum computing, which harnesses the states of subatomic particles to store and process information, is progressing at an astonishing pace. Recent breakthroughs and substantial investments have accelerated its mainstream adoption. Experts predict that the quantum computing market will exceed $125 billion by 2030, reflecting a remarkable growth rate of 36.8%.

    This rapid advancement is of particular concern regarding cryptographic security. Previously, it would have taken 14 billion years to crack a cryptographic code, but with the discovery of new algorithms, it now only takes five years. The constant emergence of disruptive quantum discoveries targeting conventional cryptographic methods is cause for alarm within the federal government.

    2. Adversaries are heavily investing in quantum capabilities.
    Global adversaries of the United States are aggressively investing in weaponizing quantum computing. While some claims of successful cryptographic hacking have been debunked, there is evidence of a concerted effort to exploit quantum technologies for attacks on critical infrastructure and the financial sector.

    Leading experts suggest that within the next ten years, the U.S. will likely experience a successful use of quantum computing as a means to undermine our cryptographic protections. This limited timeframe necessitates immediate preparations by the federal government.

    3. Inertia hampers our response.
    Addressing the quantum threat requires overcoming budgetary constraints and the complexities involved in safeguarding vast and diverse systems. Hardening millions of endpoints against quantum-cryptographic threats is a monumental task for government agencies. Beyond information technology ecosystems, operational technology resources and supporting cryptographic algorithms add further complexity, potentially causing significant delays.

    Historically, the federal government has taken approximately a decade or longer to adjust to generational technological shifts like quantum computing. However, given the pressing nature of this threat, such a delay is untenable.

    What’s needed?
    To enhance our defenses, federal agencies must create inventories and roadmaps that identify systems requiring reinforcement. Valuable guidance documents already exist to steer agencies in the right direction. For instance, White House memoranda NSM-8 and NSM-10 call for assessments of vulnerable cryptography in classified systems and the development of transition plans towards quantum-resistant cryptography. Office of Management and Budget memo M-23-02 provides additional guidance and establishes a framework for submitting a cryptographic inventory.

    Further specific guidance is expected from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. By undertaking introspection and proactive measures now, federal agencies can fortify their networks with an additional layer of cryptography impervious to attacks from quantum computers.

    The silver lining
    Amidst the looming threats posed by quantum computing, there is also an opportunity for federal agencies. The immense computational power of quantum-based calculations holds promise for driving efficiencies in defense and civilian agencies. It enables faster and deeper data analytics, providing deeper insights into trends for civilian agencies, and enhanced logistical capabilities for defense agencies. With increased focus and funding, as demonstrated by the National Quantum Initiative, the federal government is beginning to recognize the potential of quantum technologies.

    While our foundational cryptographic systems are not currently under immediate threat from quantum computers, the urgent need to address both the challenges and opportunities presented by quantum computing cannot be overstated. The security of our national infrastructure relies on robust cryptographic measures, which are being tirelessly exploited by adversaries. Swift action is imperative to counter this threat.

    Q: What is quantum computing?
    A: Quantum computing leverages the properties of subatomic particles to store and process information, enabling advanced computational capabilities.

    Q: How quickly is quantum computing evolving?
    A: Quantum computing is advancing at a faster rate than initially anticipated, with the market expected to surpass $125 billion by 2030.

    Q: Why is swift action necessary?
    A: Adversaries are heavily investing in quantum technologies, posing a significant threat to our cryptographic protections. The federal government has a limited window to prepare.

    Q: How can federal agencies respond?
    A: Federal agencies should assess and fortify vulnerable systems, following guidance from documents such as White House memoranda and Office of Management and Budget memos.

    Q: What opportunities does quantum computing offer?
    A: Quantum computing can drive efficiencies in both defense and civilian agencies, enhancing data analytics and logistical capabilities.

    – Quantum Computing Market: [Link to source](https://example.com)
    – Federal Cybersecurity Guidance: [Link to source](https://example.com)