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    Critical Thought

    Critical thoughts on quantum technologies

    The Changing Landscape: Preparing for the Quantum Computing Era

    ByThemba Hadebe

    Nov 20, 2023
    The Changing Landscape: Preparing for the Quantum Computing Era

    As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, one area that is capturing attention is quantum computing. This emerging field, which combines elements of physics, computer science, and mathematics, has the potential to revolutionize the way we solve complex problems. But what does this mean for IT security, and how can businesses best prepare for the impact of quantum computing?

    While the intricacies of quantum computing may be complex, what is important to understand is the significant implications it holds for IT security. With its unparalleled computational speed, quantum computing has the power to crack secure encryption, posing a major threat to the communication of sensitive data over the Internet.

    So, what can businesses do to stay ahead of the curve and protect themselves in the quantum computing era? The key lies in crypto-agility and the adoption of quantum-resistant methods. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recognized the urgency of this issue back in 2016 when it called for the development of quantum-resistant encryption methods. Since then, NIST has chosen four algorithms with more to come, paving the way for enhanced security measures.

    However, achieving crypto-agility is no easy feat. The vast amount of data stored in databases can make the process challenging, and large-scale decryption could be a logistical nightmare. Adapting software for a crypto-agile future will require time and effort, potentially taking years to complete. This is why the time to start preparing is now.

    In the payment industry, where security is paramount, partnerships are already forming to ensure a smooth transition. Hardware security modules that support multiple algorithms and offer fast calculations are being utilized to speed up the implementation of necessary changes. This collaboration will be crucial to maintaining the integrity of payment security as quantum computing advances.

    In the meantime, the payments industry is actively implementing measures to strengthen security protocols:

    1. Tokenization: This process involves replacing security-relevant data, like card numbers, with non-critical data that is unusable to potential thieves. This makes breaching or replicating the data extremely difficult. Merchants can store substitute values for sensitive card data, allowing customers to make seamless payments without the need to re-enter their card information.

    2. POS P2PE: Point of sale terminals that adhere to the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Point-to-Point Encryption (P2PE) standard ensure that payment data is strongly encrypted. Each payment is protected with a unique encryption key, minimizing the risk of data theft.

    3. Wallets and 2-Factor Authentication: Smartphone wallets facilitate secure transactions by exchanging tokens instead of credit card information. Additionally, two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of protection, verifying the identity of the user before authorizing a transaction.

    While widespread applications of quantum computing may still be some time away, it is crucial to think ahead. By 2030, commercialization of quantum computing could become a reality, leaving a narrow window to establish robust defenses for secure transactions in a post-quantum world. The payment industry, with its expertise in security, must take the lead in preparing for this new era to safeguard personal data effectively.


    Q: What is quantum computing?
    A: Quantum computing is an emerging field that combines elements of physics, computer science, and mathematics to solve complex problems more rapidly than conventional computers by leveraging the principles of quantum mechanics.

    Q: What are the implications of quantum computing for IT security?
    A: The speed and computational power of quantum computing pose a significant threat to secure encryption, potentially compromising the communication of sensitive data over the Internet.

    Q: What is crypto-agility?
    A: Crypto-agility refers to the ability to quickly adapt security measures to counter new threats or advances in technology, such as quantum computing.

    Q: How is the payments industry preparing for the impact of quantum computing?
    A: The payments industry is embracing tokenization, implementing POS P2PE standards, and utilizing wallets with two-factor authentication to enhance security protocols.

    Q: When should businesses start preparing for the quantum computing era?
    A: It is crucial to start preparing now for the quantum computing era to ensure that the necessary defenses are in place by the time this technology becomes commercially viable, which could be as early as 2030.

    Source: Computop