In the ever-evolving arms race in cyber security, a new tool is emerging on the scene: quantum computing.  

The central building blocks of quantum computing are qubits, created according to quantum mechanics. Qubits can exist in multiple states simultaneously, unlike classic computer bits which can only be in one of two exclusive states: 1 or 0.  

Essentially, this means a quantum computer’s power grows drastically in relation to the number of qubits linked together — giving it the ability to solve problems that are much too complex for classical computers to figure out.  

As we get closer to the quantum revolution, organisations will be able to leverage this unprecedented computational power to optimise several cyber security processes. But, in the wrong hands, could this technology become a double-edged sword used to crack open the lock of our current encryption methods? 

Whilst its full proficiencies remain untapped (for now), the predicted impact of quantum computing on the cyber security industry is immense. So, what positive impacts could it have — and what challenges must businesses overcome to protect their data? 

What is quantum computing capable of?  

 The field of machine learning could become transformed with quantum computers. Since quantum machine learning algorithms can process vast amounts of data more efficiently, cyber security teams can utilise this technology to detect threat patterns within their systems. 

With this development, organisations also stand to benefit from accurate identification and prompt alerts to potential cyber crime — significantly reducing the rate of false positives and streamlining cyber security management processes.  

So, there is no doubt that quantum computers have the potential to advance cyber security measures for businesses everywhere. But, like any technology in its infancy, they also represent a severe threat if handled by malicious actors… 

Today, even the fastest computers struggle to break the complex security keys employees create — especially when they are randomly generated. That is why cyber security teams emphasise the importance of encryption as a non-negotiable security defence.  

However, thanks to their incredible processing power, quantum computers will one day be able to brute force their way through cryptographic algorithms at an alarming speed, rendering many existing encryption methods ineffective and allowing attackers to access and exploit sensitive data. 

The quantum threat may not be knocking on businesses’ doors just yet, but this technology will have major consequences across cyber security. As hackers compete with security teams, organisations may require fast-paced changes to their cryptographic methods — and the time to start long-term risk planning is now. 

How can businesses future-proof against the quantum threat?

For any organisation that wants to keep its data safe from quantum threats, there are three ways to combat potential risks… 

1. Assess your organisation’s current cryptographic footprint

Your team must have a clear understanding of the sensitive information currently being stored or communicated within your organisation — and where legacy cryptographic algorithms are being employed.  

Where is public-key cryptography implemented within your company to keep information confidential? Is your data stored on-premises or in a storage-as-a-service cloud solution? How long do you need to keep your information secure and what regulations must you comply with when doing so?  

Whether your company holds financial, medical or personally identifiable information, chances are that regulatory standards like GDPR will eventually demand the use of quantum-resistant cryptography. Assessing your current cryptographic footprint should make this transition a little smoother for your business.  

2. Review your company’s crypto agility

Now that you have a clear view of the sensitive information you hold and where cryptography is currently being used within your tech stack, you will need to consider the infrastructure and crypto agility of your business.  

In other words, how easily can your current cryptography measures be migrated over to post-quantum solutions? What issues may arise when switching your systems to new technology — and are there any areas in which you can make impactful changes? 

Many factors will affect your crypto agility, from hardware and operating systems to bandwidth and latency. Getting ahead of these challenges is what could make or break your data security… 

3. Strategise for a post-quantum landscape

Migrating an entire infrastructure to post-quantum cryptography may seem like a mammoth undertaking and will certainly take time.  

However, if your business establishes a realistic timeline for its path to migration — updating and deploying new cryptographic techniques as they become available to speed up the process — it will be better positioned to thrive when its pre-quantum solutions become obsolete. 

For many organisations, investing in hybrid cryptography solutions that combine traditional cryptographic algorithms with post-quantum algorithms is the next step. For the sake of protecting employee and customer data, this approach provides a useful transitional period where both algorithms are supported — and the National Cyber Security Centre has released a guide to help organisations prepare for this migration to post-quantum cryptography. 

Once businesses have checked the compatibility of the new software, they can begin to phase out vulnerable algorithms and create end-of-life strategies for the data, products and systems that can no longer support the cyber security requirements of a quantum computing world. 

Are you ready to prepare your business for the next frontier in cyber security and bolster its defences against the power of quantum computing 

At Burning Tree, we help your business gain a competitive advantage by providing access to new digital technologies. Get in touch at 01252 843014 or email to discuss your requirements today.