IBM raises cybersecurity red flag, warns against quantum computing threats

Interior of an IBM Quantum computing system. — IBM

Governments need to invest in cybersecurity that can defend against the future threat of bad actors using quantum computers that are exponentially faster than ordinary machines, a cryptography expert said. 

“Attackers could be stealing large tranches of encrypted data that would be unreadable using contemporary tools, [and] hoarding data from these breaches with the intent to decode it once better technology becomes available,” said Vadim Lyubashevsky, cryptography researcher at IBM Quantum Safe, the multinational’s quantum cryptography division.  

“Organizations may have already experienced breaches that they will not know about for many years, creating an uncertain security and liability environment,” Mr. Lyubashevsky added in a Nov. 15 e-mail.  

Quantum computing boosts speeds over a trillion times faster than an ordinary laptop. 

Among the countries that have already invested in quantum computing are France, which announced in 2020 a five-year €1.8 billion strategy for quantum technology research, and the US, with its National Quantum Initiative Act signed into law in 2018. In Asia, China and India have also committed billion-dollar funding for quantum computing-related projects.   

Any agency or organization tasked with securing critical data — as well as data that must be kept for a long period of time — should be exploring quantum-safe cryptography, Mr. Lyubashevsky said, adding that the telco industry will benefit from this technology. 

“They [telcos] manage foundational information infrastructure, and serve as the first line of defense against attacks seeking to undermine global information security,” he said.  

“Those companies responsible for fabricating physical components of telecommunications systems play a central role,” Mr. Lyubashevsky added. “They will need to work closely with service providers and regulatory bodies to ensure these systems are not compromised by hardware hacks, which could undermine otherwise effective, newly instituted security measures.”  

IBM announced on Nov. 9 its collaboration with Vodafone, a multinational telecommunications company, for the application of quantum-safe cryptography.   

In its Quantum Summit 2022, IBM also announced the new members of its Quantum Network, including French bank Crédit Mutuel Alliance Fédérale, to explore quantum computing use cases in financial services; and Swiss innovation campus uptownBasel, to boost skill development and promote innovation projects on quantum and high-performance computing technology. — Patricia B. Mirasol