There was a time when the concept and the idea of quantum computers were a myth, but with the advancement in technology, the concept and applications of quantum computers have changed. As such devices and technology enter the realm of reality, it is important for the world to recognize both their good and negative implications. While the general potential of quantum computers is still being investigated, there are specific examples of quantum computers having a significant influence on existing systems and technology. With the commercial aspects and applications of quantum computing remaining in their infancy, research using existing quantum computers will provide an accurate glimpse into the effects of such devices soon.
Quantum computing is quite different from the smart gadgets we depend on today. Quantum machines operate on particle physics principles solving complex problems using multiple variables. Even though quantum computing is not a reality today, it is capable of adding more value in the areas like medical science, defense, forecasting, medical research, AI, Aerospace, and cyber security. it also creates a significant cybersecurity threat, possibly in how we encrypt our data.
What is Quantum computing?
To simply start with, simple or traditional computers perform calculations with “bits,”i.e., 0’s and 1’s, whereas quantum computers use “qubits,” Because Qubits contain information in a quantum state, they interact with 0 and 1 in a multidimensional manner. with quantum technology, the complex problem will be solved within seconds with more accuracy and fewer possible errors.
Recognizing this fact, many national and state research institutes and private-sector industries have invested in Research and development in quantum computing technologies. They aim to attain supremacy and have a better chance in the market during the early development stage they (nations and companies) have begun to invest.
Nations leading the Quantum Race
Given China’s recent “quantum leaps” and increased cross-border assaults, the United States has taken the initial steps toward better preparing for post-quantum encryption. The National Security Agency (NSA) created the first set of quantum-resistant encryption algorithms known as ‘Suite B Quantum-Resistant Cryptography’. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is also working on new encryption standards and techniques to combat quantum computer threats. It has been focusing specifically on merging four new encryption algorithms to produce a new cryptographic standard by 2024.
This is not the only change in the United States. President Biden signed the Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Preparedness Act into law in early January 2023. This was intended to encourage all government agencies to prioritize the transition to post-quantum encryption solutions, given the potential cyber dangers posed by quantum computers. It also underlined how the Act was designed with the country’s national security standing in mind, particularly in providing improved defenses against potential quantum computer threats. With this and the role of the booming private sector in delivering quantum-resistant security solutions, the United States has declared its intention to lead the way in pushing post-quantum encryption.
It can be said that the superpower nations have a lead.
The Threats of Quantum Computing Progress
Aside from the tremendous advantages of quantum computing, there are a few drawbacks, such as
Quantum computers represent substantial security risks to conventional cryptosystems due to their ability to process data at an exponential rate. Current quantum computers, however, lack the hardware needed to defeat this technique. Many applications rely significantly on asymmetric encryption systems like the RSA algorithm, including web surfing, online payments, digital signatures, and email. The RSA algorithm is based on the difficulties of conventional computers to determine factors of the product of two big prime integers. To crack a 2048-bit RSA key, a quantum computer with 4000 qubits and 100 million gates is expected to be required. In the presence of a quantum computer, other public-key encryption techniques, such as Diffie-Hellman and ECC, become useless. On the one hand, this will wreak havoc on the encryption environment; On the one hand, it will undermine the encryption ecosystem; on the other hand, it will disclose potentially sensitive information from previously exfiltrated encrypted data from different prior cyber-attacks by nation-state groups and cyber criminals.
Cyberespionage to sabotage global technology and academic institutions’ quantum research to reduce technological gaps and attain quantum computer dominance soon. If any nation is successful in becoming a leader in quantum computing, the use of such huge processing capabilities might give a strategic edge, placing critical information systems throughout the world in danger.
Warfare in cyberspace
Defeat in future conflict will be determined by technical supremacy over the number of men in the armed forces. Quantum sensing has the potential to be employed in a wide range of technologies, including some having direct military applications. Quantum radar, for example, can identify things that conventional radar cannot, while quantum navigation employs quantum features to build a precise kind of positioning system that might ultimately replace GPS. When these technologies are merged, they might be vital to any nation’s future military capabilities and a main focus of technical competition with competitor countries like the United States and China.
The development of quantum radar, imaging, and sensing technologies would boost domain awareness while potentially damaging other countries’ efforts in stealth technology or even allowing submarine monitoring.
India’s Next Step in Quantum Computing
Recognizing the cyber risks faced by quantum computers, India must consider post-quantum/quantum-resistant encryption as a national security priority issue in the future years.
firstly, India must seek to align with existing or developing global post-quantum cryptography systems. The current baseline for defense against possible quantum cyber assaults is the United States’ NSA quantum-resistant protocols and NIST post-quantum encryption standards. With cross-border threats on the rise, India must guarantee that post-quantum encryption techniques that have been globally verified, validated, and tested are employed to secure its key ICT infrastructure.
Secondly, India should invest in the private sector and other businesses that have made substantial advances in quantum cybersecurity. Domestic firms like QNu Labs and BosonQ are doing outstanding work in offering quantum-age cybersecurity solutions. The state must identify such enterprises, offer the necessary assistance (financial and otherwise), and acquire scalable solutions that can be applied nationally.
Thirdly, the newly established National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications (NM-QTA), with a total budget of Rs 8,000 crore, must prioritize post-quantum cybersecurity. While the funds under the mission have not yet been disbursed (according to the government’s response on the floor of Parliament), the state must exert pressure to direct a significant portion of the National Mission’s resources toward developing quantum-resistant cybersecurity solutions through academic or defense research institutions.
Everything from applications to internet search, site development, cybersecurity, and beyond will be influenced by quantum computing. It’s a good idea to remain on top of current technology developments so that when new features are introduced, we’ll have the knowledge and tools we need to weather the start of the contemporary technological era. Cybercriminals can derive someone’s encryption key and use it to impersonate the person, counterfeit transactions, forge digital signatures, discover and print data, and extort or publish the harvested data if we do not embrace it PQC. Although modern quantum computers must yet acquire specific offensive capabilities, the threat of quantum cyberattacks exists. It is also in India’s best interests to be watchful and to develop concrete quantum-resistant capabilities. The age of quantum cybersecurity is here, and India cannot afford to be caught off guard.
Author : Ms. Tanushree Saxena, Trainer, CyberPeace Foundation