Now is the time for quantum hardening


Quantum Hardening (Shutterstock Image)

It is 5-years since NIST and the NSA declared that “now is the time” to implement quantum hardening … and the technology is finally at a tipping point into the mainstream.

It is good to see quantum coming into the money, leaving behind the taunts of science project, lion repellent, or shelf-ware made by those vested in older S-curves of innovation.

A University of Maryland startup is set for a $2 billion IPO. It will be the first publicly traded company focused on commercializing quantum-computing hardware and software.

The Canadian Government is this week pumping $40 million into quantum annealing specialist D-Wave despite the Covid pandemic.

“The decade of quantum computing is upon us” was a recent quote from the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Network Summit, recognizing the shift in the market.

The business of quantum technology has two major streams (and many tributaries) —

1) the nation state, big business, and big bucks R&D labs side of the business, with appetites for long timelines and the billions of investment that are needed to build out the first quantum computers themselves and

2) the faster moving, more accessible, and more mature market in tooling for quantum hardening of conventional IT infrastructures to protects against those huge quantum computer investments!

There was just recently a leap forward in the physics underpinning quantum computers — the first category — one of many propelling more industry and nation state investments.

As the power measured in Quantum Bits, usability outside of labs, and affordability of quantum computers increase, they in turn drive the need for governments and businesses to quantum harden IT infrastructure of all kinds, with secure communications being the lowest hanging fruit of all in the second category.

Why this is so would be a long article in itself. The Cliff’s Notes version is that the mathematics that secures many of today’s secure communications tools rely on is hard for conventional computers to crack but in principle easy and quick for a quantum computer.

UK Wartime leader Winston Churchill would have had less time for memorable speeches and photo shoots were not English and Polish cryptographers anonymously behind the scene cracking German communications using state of the art digital computers of the time.

The urgency for action in hardening today’s communications also comes with the understanding that secured messages are routinely stored rather than being just ephemeral. If security is cracked now, 3, 5, or even 10 years into the future, once that security is broken, that whole history is cracked. It’s an industry problem way bigger than clearing the web browser of history!

The need for quantum behind the cybersecurity of communication was the focus of another recent Wall Street Journal article.

Now is the time for all good cybersecurity people to join the quantum hardening party!

About the author

Simon’s focus is the business of cybersecurity, building and hardening critical infrastructure over the past few decades for government and industry, beginning with civilian nuclear energy in Europe, to securing cloud and communications infrastructure in the US today.

He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), with a BSc (Hons) degree in Physics from the University of Manchester, England, a Masters degree in Law & Cybersecurity from the University of Maryland Carey Law School, and an Executive MBA degree from the University of Maryland Smith Business School.



Simon Hartley -- Cybersecurity, Mobility, Quantum

Seasoned software exec experienced in scaling emerging tech. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.