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 What is quantum computing?  

Quantum computing is not based on the mathematical principles that govern classical computing. Instead, it is based on the science of quantum mechanics, where computations are driven by “qubits” rather than bits.

Whereas the math used with binary bits produces discrete, fixed values, qubits can exist in multiple states at the same time. This is key for why quantum computing is so different, namely because qubits do not have a fixed value, and exist in an indeterminate state. With so much fluidity in knowing their value for computational purposes, they can handle far greater complexity than the binary model that defines classical computing.

This has significant implications for data security. Quantum computers will be able to create and support entirely new models of encryption based on quantum cryptography. This is a future-forward scenario that would be virtually impossible to hack with today’s technologies. For now, the more pressing implication is the impact these developments in quantum computing will have on the present state of data encryption.

What are the threats and risks?

Quantum computing may seem far removed from well-established encryption methods including asymmetric, such as RSA, and symmetric, such as AES. Encryption solutions often use a mix of these to provide a faster, more secure overall approach that leverages the strengths of both models.

These encryption models take a common approach to data security—they are based on mathematical principles, specifically around factoring integers into prime numbers. Known as the “factoring problem”, the larger the prime numbers, the longer the encryption keys become, and the more difficult it becomes to break the code. While this model can theoretically keep scaling with larger prime numbers, its utility will be constrained by the computational abilities of the classical computing model.

As the field of quantum computing advances, new algorithms grounded in quantum mechanics are being developed with computational capabilities that far outstrip these factoring-based models built on mathematical principles. In other words, it won’t be enough just to keep building bigger encryption keys – the fundamental approach to encryption will need to change to safeguard data.

The two most important algorithms relative to quantum computing and encryption are named for their originators, Shor and Grover. When these algorithms can run on a large-scale quantum computer, they will be able to crack the strongest encryption codes, at which point all encrypted data will be at risk. This means that data being encrypted today may not be secure once quantum computers become more available.

How to protect your data?

Organizations need to determine how many years they need to keep their encrypted data. Then, organizations need to make their IT infrastructure ‘quantum-safe’ before large-scale quantum computers become readily available. Protecting data will involve implementing quantum-resistant algorithms on existing classical computers, and re-encrypting all data with those algorithms. Keep in mind that data being encrypted and stored today will certainly be at risk if large-scale quantum computers enter the market before that data reaches the end of its valuable life.

SafeNet AT’s Quantum Approach

SafeNet AT is closely monitoring the latest developments in the areas of quantum computing and quantum resistant cryptography to ensure that our solutions remain crypto agile and are "quantum-proof".  We focus our efforts on the quantum 4:

Quantum Computing –The building and development of quantum based computers. While SafeNet AT is not actively involved in the development of quantum computers, we regularly monitor industry progress because of its impact on cryptography.

Quantum Resistant Crypto (QRC) – NIST-led development of new algorithms and protocols that are "quantum proof" meaning that they they cannot be broken by quantum computers. SafeNet AT is actively involved in this area in order to ensure that our solutions are crypto agile—our platforms will have the memory, compute and flexibility to add post quantum cryptography (PQC) algorithms as they become available for use.

Quantum Random Number Generation (QRNG) – Utilization of quantum principles to generate random numbers (or entropy) for use in cryptography. These can be used with traditional crypto and/or QRC. SafeNet AT is actively involved in this area in order to enhance our hardware security modules and cryptographic key managers.

Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) – The distribution of random between two endpoints where “observing” the bits changes them. SafeNet AT's technology partners, such as Senetas, are developing solutions that use this technology.  

For more information of SafeNet AT’s quantum approach, contact

Industry Insight: Quantum Computing – the Canary in the Coal Mine for Data Security

This Insight is designed to help IT decision-makers understand what quantum computing represents for the future of cryptography and how data security practices will need to respond.