Have you even heard about Quantum Computers?
It might sound like science fiction but Quantum computers represent a real danger to maintaining data security.
What is the current technology?
Current processors use bits to represent data. These are electrical signals, which switch on or off to represent 1 or 0. These build together to form greater larger numbers, which are then used by software to solve mathematical problems. While we know they are fast they are limited to working one number at a time.
How Does Quantum Compare?
Here subatomic particles such as an electron are used in the form of a qubit. These can possess a property called superposition, which means they can be in multiple states at once. Together with entanglement this provides qubits with greater flexibility for some mathematical calculations.
So Why Are Quantum Computers An Issue?
One of the mathematical tasks we mentioned is factoring. This is an integral part of modern encryption. The algorithms used depend on current hardware being unable to factor numbers in short period of time. This is why your sensitive business and private data is safe, as a person cannot just use a “normal” computer to break the encryption. The problem is a Quantum computer could potentially break the encryption in seconds.
Are Quantum Computers A Present Day Threat?
You will be pleased to hear that a quantum computer that is capable of breaking modern encryption has not yet been built. The hardware is challenging to produce but so is the process of setting up the calculations that are required. However, the experts say it is only a matter of time before it will arrive. This should worry everyone. Timescales are an unknown with five or more years being mentioned. One thing is for sure, when it arrives all data encrypted by using algorithms going back to the 1970s will be at risk.
What Is Being Done Now To Protect Data From Quantum Computers?
It is reported that IBM has developed a quantum-proof tape storage. It is a digital linear tape (DLT) unit with firmware using an encryption algorithm that is created to be resilient against quantum calculations. Other work in the US by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) includes four cryptography standards, which they understand will be quantum-proof.
What Can We Do Now To Protect Data?
I am sorry to say there is not really anything you can buy now that will protect you from a quantum computer.
However, here are some preparatory steps that you can take:
- Audit the software and equipment used to encrypt your data, and what encryption algorithms they use.
- Catalogue what data you have stored in your organisation and what you used to encrypt it.
- Classify this data based on its sensitivity.
- Based on this information, prepare a plan for move to a post-quantum data management scheme. Look to identify the systems you need to upgrade, what data you must re-encrypt, and those that need to be done first.
We hope that this helps you to realise that just because a threat isn’t imminent doesn’t mean it should be ignored or prepared for
If you would like to learn more about Quantum Computers you can read some very udeful information from IBM HERE