Quantum-Cybersecurity: The Next Generation of Defense in the Digital Era?

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illustration of spinning atoms representing quantum physics

Global Landscape

Over the past few years, we have noticed an increasing trend of emerging and converging technologies that have propelled us into the next industrial revolution, however, they have also triggered a new wave of cyber-threats. A recent Gartner report urges us to treat cybersecurity as a Business Decision and highlights a workforce gap. Several market research analyses have also highlighted the growing economic impact as the global cybersecurity market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14.5% by 2026 reaching an estimated $325 B in value.

Numerous international organizations including a recent report by the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity have highlighted the need for increased emphasis on cyber security proactive programs not only for large enterprises, but also for small and medium businesses.

Several industries have made huge strides in enhancing their cyber security defense systems and for which proactive robust cyber security and ethics programs are vital for long-term success. A few examples are Life Sciences, Aerospace, and Defense, as well as Fintech industries.

For life sciences, quantum cybersecurity can be a gateway for broader collaboration, trusted global data exchange capabilities, and shortening the R&D life-cycle vital to improving global population health.

For space asset security, quantum computing is also considered by many experts as a powerful weapon in the cyber-defense arsenal as it can increase the integrity of communications in space. Novel techniques such as quantum key distributions could be used by satellite networks and bridge the space enterprise trust gap. The Air Force Research Laboratory is now designated as the Quantum Information Science Research Center for the US Air Force and US Space Force, and the expert teams are working on quantum-enhanced solutions for communications, networks, and navigation systems.

A recent Deloitte article highlighted that quantum information technologies will have a significant and profound impact on national security, as well as the need for non-technical government leaders to act now in preparing for the new digital era.

Challenges

There are numerous and complex challenges that must be overcome when establishing effective cyber security programs globally. The number one barrier listed is cost. Furthermore, legal, and regulatory barriers remain universal challenges in all industries.

The rapid advancements in technology with new emerging technologies constantly demand optimization of existing cyber-security tools and programs. Additionally, experts warn about a massive shortage of skilled workers and a talent gap that needs to be addressed to meet the increased cyber-threats we are facing in the digital era.

Opportunities

Companies that wish to be leaders in the digital era and retain a competitive advantage understand the need for state-of-the-art cybersecurity programs and for global collaboration to develop international standards, as well as KPIs for successful cybersecurity programs.

Quantum- Opportunities & Challenges

Quantum computing is one of the emerging technologies considered by many experts as one of the potential tools that can offer increased protection.  However, others caution that it can also become a dangerous weapon with unprecedented consequences when used by those with malicious intent.

The implementation of quantum computing will create vast opportunities for technological advancement, while also developing new challenges for cybersecurity. Higher processing speeds can lead to better protection, as well as faster breakthroughs of existing defense systems.

While cryptographic encryption can offer numerous advantages for business and scientific needs, it can also become the Achilles heel for versatile cyber-attackers.

Future Directions

Design Thinking

Some of the major challenges for faster adoption and implementation of quantum technology in cyber security deployments could be addressed by having a design thinking approach. By understanding the needs of all stakeholders in the ecosystem in the empathize phase, as well as using a cross- and interdisciplinary approach during the ideation phase we could optimally leverage the advantages quantum computing offers. Cybersecurity solutions uniquely lend themselves to agile prototyping methodologies as per the foundational principles of design thinking. This would allow us to improve qubit quality, continuously improve the error correction and reduce interference, as well as optimize the modeling and scaling capabilities. 

Digital Twins

Several industries have also demonstrated significant advancements in using digital twin capabilities for safety testing.

Per Gartner, a digital twin is a digital representation of a real-world entity or system. The implementation of a digital twin is an encapsulated software object or model that mirrors a unique physical object, process, organization, person, or other abstraction

In addition to quantum, the design and deployment of digital twins is complex and intimately connected to other digital technologies such as cloud computing, AI, IoT, 5G networks, blockchain, and virtual, augmented, or mixed reality. It is expected that the rate of adoption for all these technologies will have a profound influence on the digital twin industry. 

The benefits we can gain as a society by deploying these digital highly versatile avatars in cyber defense systems are exponential, as they can optimize efficiency, reduce long-term costs, enhance quality, and further our research capabilities. 

Smart Cities

As a society, we have numerous opportunities in the next decades to change the paradigm and build smart cities that have cyber security embedded into their technology architecture. Some of the key elements and drivers of success for smart city deployments include having a robust data governance and cyber security component. A cyber-defense strategic roadmap and implementation playbook can secure l the expected ROI and long-term sustainability.   A recent report by scholars from UC Berkeley, CA identified the risks inherent to technology deployments for smart cities and ranks emerging technologies according to their vulnerability and attractiveness to cyber-attackers.

Experts at Deloitte have also highlighted the converged e of physical and digital infrastructures and the importance of addressing cyber-security risks while embracing cloud, IoT, blockchain, AI, and quantum in smart cities design.

The World Economic Forum has also recognized the opportunity for cybersecurity to play a key role in building smart sustainable cities and communities. The recently published report is a call to global collaboration in developing a governance roadmap for digital technologies. Although we do not have enough evidence of quantum supremacy in designing cyber-defense systems, we can certainly get closer than ever to the attainment of zero trust by leveraging the benefits of quantum computing.

As a recent article in Forbes emphasized, many countries have augmented their investments in quantum research and several countries such as Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Israel, India are making tremendous progress in mastering the Quantum Challenge. Once they are successful, we can expect a larger-scale global adoption of quantum-powered cyber security programs and quantum computing can potentially become our strongest defense mechanism in the pandemic of cyber-attacks we expect to witness in the digital era.

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