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Quantum computing – addressing the national security threat

Earlier this year, we published an article that highlighted China’s Growing Investment in Quantum Computing. In that article, we discussed the threats and opportunities represented by the emerging quantum technologies market and discussed the significant levels of investment underway in the US, China and Europe.

In a report published this month, Hudson Institute looks in more detail at the national security threat posed by quantum computers and the state of quantum cybersecurity. The report also compares the strategies employed by China and the US, before advocating for the development of a holistic approach to quantum-safe security.


Quantum computing; friend or foe?

The exponential increase in computing power that is associated with the emergence of the quantum computer has wide ranging implications for business, academia and government. Whilst it promises some significant benefits, it also represents a threat to contemporary cryptography.

In particular, it threatens to render the public key encryption infrastructure that is widely used today redundant. PKI relies on asymmetric encryption, which itself depends upon the complexity of mathematics to ensure its security. The complex calculations required to crack asymmetric cryptography are beyond the abilities of classical computers but would pose no such problem to a quantum computer.

The Hudson report looks forward to the time when a viable quantum computer is capable of successfully hacking PKI; a watershed moment that is referred to as Q-Day or Y2Q. The arrival of what Hudson Institute’s Quantum Alliance Initiative (QAI) policy center refers to as a “quantum prime computer” is viewed with a degree of anxiety.

Although the report acknowledges that it is difficult to predict an accurate timeline for Q-Day, it also recognises that the quantum threat is not just something on the horizon. The treat posed to stored data is both real and immediate. The long-term value of stored data means it can be hacked and harvested today for decryption at some time in the future.


Quantum cybersecurity

Whilst quantum technologies pose a threat, they also hold the key to solving the problem. The Hudson report profiles three technologies underlying the development of quantum cybersecurity solutions:

  • Quantum Random Number Generation (QRNG),
  • Post-Quantum Cryptography and
  • Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).

Individually these technologies can all provided protection against the coming of the quantum computer. QRNG is already being used as a source of genuine entropy for the generation of secure quantum keys.

Post-quantum cryptography (aka quantum-resistant algorithms) promises long-term data protection using mathematical complexity to confound quantum computers in the same way asymmetric cryptography offers protection against classical computers.

QKD technologies are the key to secure communication networks, leveraging the quantum principle that observation leads to perturbation to ensure forward secrecy of data transmitted across the network.

An important step in the commercialization of quantum networks is the development and implementation of compliance and compatibility standards. Once established, these standards could pave the way to the development of a global quantum network.


Quantum dominance

The race to establish market leadership in the fields of quantum computing and quantum cybersecurity is well underway, with significant contributions being made by the US, China, Australia, the UK, Canada and Switzerland. The rewards, and the strategic advantage, gained from being “first past the post” make it one of the most important areas of technological development and had attracted $billions in investment.

The Hudson report goes into detail about the different strategies adopted by China and the US in their quest to establish dominance in the fields of quantum computing and quantum cybersecurity.

The US has established a position of leadership in the development of a quantum computer, but the massive $10billion investment by the Chinese government is putting that position under threat. If the US is to establish quantum dominance it will need to develop a national quantum strategy; one that can be “viewed holistically and through a cybersecurity lens”.


About Hudson Institute

Hudson Institute is a research organization promoting American leadership and global engagement for a secure, free, and prosperous future.

Founded in 1961 by strategist Herman Kahn, Hudson Institute challenges conventional thinking and helps manage strategic transitions to the future through interdisciplinary studies in defense, international relations, economics, health care, technology, culture, and law.

Hudson seeks to guide public policymakers and global leaders in government and business through a vigorous program of publications, conferences, policy briefings and recommendations.

Visit www.hudson.org for more information.

You can download a copy of the Hudson Institute report here


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