Preparing businesses for the quantum era

Quantum cryptography offers data protection in our evolving digital spaces

By Kaitlin O’Brien Institute for Quantum Computing

Cyberattacks and data breaches are an invisible but growing threat that is becoming more commonplace against the landscape of technological growth and development. Many of today’s digital environments are still using outdated operating methods that were implemented in the early days of the internet. To combat the risks posed by cybersecurity threats, research on quantum computers and cryptography has emerged as a vital tool for digital protection.

Dr. Michele Mosca is a professor in Combinatorics and Optimization at the University of Waterloo and a faculty member at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC). IQC is a world-leading facility at the University that is not only dedicated to ground-breaking research but has spun out more than 17 quantum startups. The institute is a main driver for why Waterloo region is referred to as Canada’s quantum valley.

Mosca is developing practical digital system cryptography that is secure against quantum attacks. In addition to cutting edge research, Mosca is also co-founder and CEO of evolutionQ, an enterprise focused on preparing organizations for the quantum security attacks of tomorrow.

The need for quantum-safe cybersecurity is now

As we enter the quantum era, the risks to our digital environments are imminent and sophisticated, and we must proactively face this reality to maintain the availability, trustworthiness and integrity of our virtual spaces. If systems fail or go offline unexpectedly, the consequences are both disruptive and more crucially, they could halt critical infrastructures altogether.

Mosca aims to use cryptography, the study of secure communications techniques, to enable us to use untrusted media and entities while still trusting the results.

"Cryptography allows us to leverage the power of digital infrastructures and at the same time thwart attempts by adversaries to compromise the confidentiality or integrity of the information being handled by those infrastructures or to illicitly gain control of connected devices," Mosca says.

His company is enabling organizations to prepare themselves for quantum computers. The enterprise helps organizations future-proof their digital systems by migrating to quantum-safe cryptography to protect against the threat posed by quantum computers.

"The cryptography we use to protect our digital infrastructures must be secure against tomorrow’s attacks as well as today’s," Mosca says. "Quantum technology is part of tomorrow’s technology landscape, and thus we must evolve our cryptography to be secure in the era with quantum technologies."

Mosca’s academic and enterprise goals in cryptography are centred on moving from solely defending against specific known attacks, toward developing a strong "cyber immune system." This is a proactive system that can better detect and respond to new and unforeseen threats at the outset to better deal with tomorrow’s unexpected challenges.

Getting businesses quantum ready

Quantum readiness is essential but requires companies to commit to a journey to be quantum safe sooner rather than later. Championing such causes in the context of large-scale organizations is daunting, especially when the threat is invisible, and the current approach to safety and security is typically reactive. Adversaries are deliberately trying to violate systems, and they have the tools to do it. Companies need to do more to evaluate the risks of emerging threats to data security that are systemic and potentially unrecoverable.

Mosca is developing a solution for global vendor independence to make it easier to scale quantum cryptography systems to a global level.

"There is a bit of a moral hazard when it comes to building up our cyber immune system. It’s not always rewarded," Mosca says. "There’s no perfect way to sound the alarm on this impending threat, but we need to get better at talking about it and taking action."

evolutionQ continues to expand and work closely with businesses to educate and support them through the migration to quantum-safe cryptography. Mosca hopes that businesses and organizations will heed the warnings and act now to implement reliable quantum-safe cybersecurity products and services before it’s too late.