What is quantum computing?

Quantum computing is one of the new innovations of the 21st Century alongside artificial intelligence and machine learning. Quantum computing gives us the potential to create computers that are far more powerful than anything we have had before and this means that we will be able to do things and solve problems that were previously impossible. As a leader it’s important to plan how you will leverage these types of innovations to make your company more secure and understand how attackers may use these innovations against you.

So what is a quantum computer?

At a high level a quantum computer is a much more powerful and faster computer that uses different underlying technology than a regular computer. Quantum computers perform calculations based on the probability of an object's state before it is measured - instead of just 1s or 0s - which means they have the potential to process exponentially more data compared to classical computers. A single state - such as on or off, up or down, 1 or 0 - is called a bit while quantum computers use qubits. The area of physics known as quantum mechanics shows that, at the most fundamental level, classical physics theories no longer apply. This additional level of complexity means that quantum computers could eventually far surpass current computers in their ability to process information and do it quickly and accurately. This new processing power will open the door to innovation in many areas and one of them is cybersecurity. How will quantum computing change cybersecurity

The first big change we may see as a result of quantum computing is in the field of encryption. Our current encryption algorithms are only considered secure because of our current computing power but once quantum computing becomes more mainstream our current encryption algorithms may be too weak to prevent being broken by a skilled hacker. Likely, we will need to change some of our encryption algorithms for stronger ones.

Source @ okta

Second is password based attacks. Brute force password attacks typically aren’t very effective due to how long they take to occur but if a quantum computer is being used, which can perform actions several times stronger than that of a regular computer then these types of attacks will be much more viable. This could very well lead to us needing to find other means of authenticating because regular passwords would not be a secure option.

Third is machine learning. As data volume and complexity increases it becomes more expensive to use them in machine learning algorithms. But, if quantum computing becomes more common it will be able to handle these larger datasets and use them to create more effective algorithms for detecting cyberattacks than we previously could. Most cybersecurity providers are looking to move away from traditional signature based detection towards behaviour based detection, which can identify a piece of malware based on it’s unusual or insecure behavior regardless of its code. This type of detection requires that you feed a lot of information into the machine learning algorithm so that it can learn to effectively tell the difference between non-malicious and malicious behaviour. Quantum computing can drastically speed up this process and this could potentially revolutionize companies ability to detect cyberattacks in advance.

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It’s important that companies begin to plan for situations like these so that they aren’t scrambling to make the adjustments after attackers have begun to leverage this type of technology. Especially if you’re someone that works within the government, healthcare, financial institutions or any organization that is likely to be targeted by nation-state hackers. These hackers have large amounts of resources and they will probably be the first ones to get access to this type of technology if they haven’t already. As a leader of the organization it’s important to be proactive in making the changes necessary to stay secure.

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