Quantum tech is bursting into our lives – how can businesses stay secure?
Another week, another high-profile hack – most recently, a massive data breach dubbed Collection #1, that exposed about 773 million email addresses and more than 21 million passwords. The important question here is: what’s preventing companies from building stronger defenses, given there are now a myriad of options available, thanks to advanced technologies? Clearly, many senior execs have not heard of the latest innovation in data protection – quantum cyber security.
While we regularly hear about Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and Big Data, quantum technology is lesser known, despite its Herculean potential to revolutionize data security. You may not have come across it yet, but it’s worth reading up. And that’s because all businesses are facing a security conundrum: quantum computing is bursting into our lives and it’s so powerful it will be able to crack many of the encryption systems we rely on today as armor. The battleground is changing; now it’s about moving away from building good enough arsenals, to building the very best. And there are ways to get started on this right now – such as choosing key management solutions that can work with quantum resistant algorithms and quantum random numbers.
Ok, breathe in, this is about to get a little complicated. That said, the results of quantum cyber security are quite simple: it strengthens data protection way beyond what’s currently the norm and ensures the integrity of people’s most valuable information. Put simply, quantum technology is ushering in a new era of truly secret, secure communication. There are many properties that are intrinsic to quantum technology, but here are a few that are being used as tools to enhance data security.
Firstly, superposition. This is the idea that a particle or object can be in two places or states at the same time. In quantum computing, you can have qubits that can be a superstition of both a 1 and a 0 simultaneously – giving computers the power to hold more information and crunch through data much faster than traditional computers. Secondly there’s entanglement. This means two objects can be connected by a quantum state. And this is where the clever bit comes in: if you try to transmit information using this entangled state, or you harness quantum quirks to encode a message, it’s rendered unreadable to all but its intended recipient. And this is one approach for implementing what’s called ‘quantum key distribution,’ or QKD – one of the most secure ways of exchanging keys.
And then there’s quantum tunneling. This is a phenomenon in which a particle passes through a barrier that classical physics predicts it cannot cross. More specifically, the number of particles (for example electrons) that pass the barrier is unpredictable, making this effect well suited to the generation of truly random numbers at very high rates. And it’s ideal for encryption applications, according to quantum cyber experts from QuintessenceLabs.
“Quantum tunneling is one of several quantum effects that can be tapped to generate truly random numbers at high rates, ensuring that the encryption used to protect your data is truly as strong as you need it to be. Another quantum cybersecurity tool, Quantum key distribution, uses extremely powerful (but counter-intuitive) quantum effects to share encryption keys safely. Using physics to protect data is the toughest defence against an attack – whether by conventional or quantum computers,” says John Leiseboer, CTO of QuintessenceLabs
These ingredients are the basic ideas behind quantum-enhanced cyber security. So, how can they help in practice? The strength of your encryption depends on having strong keys – and that means keys that are truly unpredictable. Just like a real key used for unlocking a door, encryption keys are made from random grooves that guarantee their uniqueness. Weak keys effectively reduce the power of encryption and may offer ways to unlock the door to your data. And then the keys need to be managed – and this involves the users and policies across the whole organization. This is one of the most complex challenges in data security, according to Jane Melia, VP of Strategic Business Development at QuintessenceLabs.
“To have successful enterprise-wide encryption, you need a centralized and highly compatible key and policy management solution to generate strong keys and manage them and implement policies that appropriately control access and privileges. It’s also increasingly important to make sure your key manager is agile enough to work with both conventional and quantum resistant encryption protocols. And of course, recent quantum key distribution developments are leading the way to truly quantum safe communications, protected by the laws of physics. It’s complicated, but that’s why there are experts that do it for you. Using quantum-enhanced cybersecurity, you know you will be as safe as possible from quantum attacks,” says Dr. Vikram Sharma, Founder and CEO QuintessenceLabs.
With the advent of quantum computing, keys made from algorithmically-based random numbers are more vulnerable. Unlike algorithms, physical quantum devices called ‘Quantum Random Number Generators’ (QRNG) can produce truly random numbers that can withstand hacking attempts by quantum computers. Therefore, a move to the commercially-available high speed true random numbers enabled by QRNG is an easy first step on the road to quantum resilience – as Australian bank and financial services provider, Westpac, discovered.
QuintessenceLabs’ Quantum Random Number Generator allows Westpac to access and use the highest quality keys and other cryptographic objects to optimize their data protection. As one of Westpac’s main principles is to safeguard sensitive information – both to build the trust of its customers and also comply with regulations – this strategy can help all personal identification and financial information remain secure, anonymous and appropriately segregated.
Like Westpac, businesses across the world need to future-proof themselves, so they can embrace a quantum world, not fear it. Above all, quantum-enhanced cyber security today – in the form of key management solutions that are compatible with quantum-resistant algorithms and truly random numbers – is about making sure you and your customers are as protected as possible. By fighting quantum with quantum, and building it into existing infrastructures, businesses can focus on long-term security, and therefore growth, confident that all their data is safe.