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Navigating the quantum shift: preparing people, products and systems for quantum resilience

Blue glowing futuristic quantum computing, computer generated abstract background, 3D rendering

There are benefits and risks to quantum computing. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Karine Villegas
Senior Principal Security Architect, Kudelski IoT
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • There is an urgent need to prepare for quantum computing's ability to break current cryptographic systems, posing significant risks to global digital security.
  • Preparing for a quantum-secure world requires workforce training, thorough assessment of quantum-sensitive assets and components and upgrading to quantum-resistant algorithms.
  • The development of quantum-resistant technologies is critical to safeguard IoT devices, data safety and digital assets from quantum computing threats.

In the dynamic realm of technology, quantum computing emerges as a transformative force. It offers the ability to tackle problems that classical computing can't handle, but it also presents a substantial risk to existing cryptographic systems, creating numerous uncertainties. Here, I explore the critical need to ready individuals, products and systems for a quantum-secure digital future, specifically addressing the challenges arising from quantum computing's capacity to compromise current cryptographic protocols.

Navigating the quantum shift
Navigating the quantum shift Image: Kudelski IoT

Quantum threatens cryptography

Quantum computing, possessing unparalleled computational power, poses a significant risk to the cryptographic protocols safeguarding our digital realm. Current cybersecurity cornerstones, such as RSA and ECC algorithms, are vulnerable to quantum advancements. These risks are rapidly shifting from theoretical to tangible due to swift progress in quantum computing. Addressing these threats demands multifaceted efforts: developing new designs and implementing novel algorithms and protocols. This process necessitates specialized skills, substantial time and resources. With the urgency of these developments, it's imperative to act promptly, recognizing the extensive work that lies ahead.

Quantum security resistance: our cyber shield

The concept of quantum resistance is crucial in this context. It involves developing secure algorithms and protocols that can withstand attacks using quantum, classical computers and a combination of both. Quantum-resistant technologies are key to safeguarding IoT devices and ecosystems, ensuring data safety and protecting digital assets against these emerging threats.


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Preparing the workforce: training and awareness

To pave the way for a quantum-resilient future, the initial step is to educate, train and consistently update organizations and their workforces. Notable conferences, such as those hosted by the PKI Consortium or specialized events like CHES and CRYPTO, offer valuable insights on this topic. Businesses, academic entities and individuals must grasp the nuances of quantum technology, its associated risks and strategies for mitigation. Empowering teams with this knowledge is key to confidently navigating the evolving landscape of quantum security.

Inventory and assessment: the foundation of quantum readiness

A comprehensive inventory of hardware and software using quantum-sensitive components is crucial. Identifying these elements allows for a thorough quantum threat assessment and strategic risk mitigation planning, thereby strengthening defences in the quantum landscape.

Upgrading to quantum-resistant algorithms

Implementing quantum-resistant algorithms is a critical measure. Organizations, such as NIST, BSI and ANSSI, provide cryptographic guidelines, including the latest quantum-resistant algorithms. They also offer industry-specific migration plans for businesses and organizations. Integrating these algorithms into current systems enhances resilience against conventional attacks and ensures alignment with evolving cryptographic standards.

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Designing quantum-secure systems from scratch or with flexibility

Integrating quantum security resistance from the outset is highly beneficial for new solutions, especially those with long lifecycles. Adopting this proactive strategy guarantees sustained compliance and security, safeguarding these systems against quantum threats from the very beginning.

For solutions already in deployment, it's crucial to identify and assess the security functions that require migration to quantum-resistant measures. This process involves relying on established security primitives designed to offer quantum resistance, ensuring the security of systems throughout their deployment lifecycle.

Quantum computing impacts
Image: Kudelski IoT

Do it yourself versus getting support from experts

The demand for external support in quantum secure transition echoes the widespread need for assistance during the Y2K crisis. In both situations, businesses and organizations confronted a sophisticated technological challenge necessitating specialized knowledge and expertise. Therefore, the shift to a secure quantum era is not merely a technical problem, but a strategic one. It calls for a unified approach that frequently surpasses the internal capabilities of organizations, underscoring the need for collaborative efforts and external expertise.

Quantum security readiness: evaluating and ensuring compliance

Assessing the quantum security strength of products requires evaluating their resistance to side-channel and fault attacks, the quality of randomness and compliance with standards, such as FIPS. Leveraging top-tier hardware analysis capabilities is crucial for ensuring products are ready for the quantum era.

Challenges in the journey towards quantum security

Navigating the journey towards quantum security presents significant challenges. Primary among these are the costs, uncertainties and complexities associated with upgrading existing systems and designing new quantum-resistant architectures. Moreover, this transition demands a fundamental shift in organizational attitudes and strategies towards cybersecurity.

Quantum security: a collaborative effort

Achieving quantum security is a collaborative endeavour, necessitating the involvement of various stakeholders. This includes technology providers, businesses, regulatory authorities and the workforce. By working together, these groups can construct a formidable defence against the emerging quantum threats of the future.

As we approach the dawn of a revolutionary computing era, the imperative to ready ourselves for a quantum-secure world is paramount. It is a shared duty to fortify our digital infrastructure against the transformative wave of quantum computing. By comprehensively recognizing the risks, educating our workforce, meticulously evaluating our systems and transitioning to quantum-resistant technologies, we lay the groundwork for a secure and resilient digital future.

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World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

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