Cryptography safe for now, but urgent need to build quantum skills

It is premature to sound the death knell for today’s key cryptography, but there is now an urgent need to build quantum computing skills. This will ensure that countries have the right knowledge to combat potential threats when the technology becomes viable in the near future.

And that future could be in the next five years if market players make significant strides in this area. For example, IBM said it plans to produce a quantum computer that can at least clock 4,000 qubits by 2025† This would push the technology beyond the experimental stage, with organizations able to deploy quantum computers within the time frame from 2023 to 2025, IBM said.

Such advances underscored the need to ensure there were skills ready to tap into and support future quantum computing implementations, said Dell Technologies CTO John Roese.

He noted that the tech community was ill-prepared for the rise of cloud computing, saying that there were professionals skilled in traditional programming languages ​​such as C++, but there was a lack of relevant skills to leverage cloud-native architectures.

Companies and universities realized this and made an effort to catch up, Reese said in an interview with ZDNet.

As the industry managed to push through, he insisted on the need to learn from this mistake and prepare for the next shift. This would ensure that governments and organizations were ready when quantum computers became commercially available.

He said the technology field required a different set of skills because the programming language and the build logic were different. Software frameworks and toolchains were also new, so the tech workforce, including data scientists, would have to adapt and build new quantum computing skills.

In any case, efforts seem to be underway here. Dell estimates that governments around the world have committed more than $24 billion in research and development investments to build capabilities around quantum technology.

This was significant, Roese said, given that the industry was worth just $900 million in revenue today. He added that Asian countries such as China, Singapore and India were among the countries that had started building capabilities in quantum computing.

In Singapore, such plans focused on security and building quantum secure networks. The government announced last month that it Set aside SG $23.5 million (17.09 million) in support of three national platforms, parked under his Quantum Engineering Program (QEP), up to 3.5 years.

These were intended to enhance the country’s quantum computing capabilities and ensure encryption technologies remained robust and resistant to brute force attacks.

The QEP also included a quantum secure network touted to demonstrate “crypto-agile connectivity” and support trials with both public and private organizations. First unveiled in FebruaryThe project focused on enhancing network security for critical infrastructures and had attracted 15 partners at launch, including ST Telemedia Global Data Centers, Cyber ​​Security Agency and Amazon Web Services.

Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policy Heng Swee Keat said quantum technology could be a “game changer” as efforts were made to stay ahead of malicious actors amid a rapidly evolving cyber landscape.

Heng said: “Strong encryption is key to the security of digital networks. The current encryption standard, AES 256, has held up as few have the computing power to use brute force to break the encryption. But this could change with quantum computing. .”

As quantum computers continued to achieve computational speeds a million times faster than supercomputers, he said it was vital that Singapore invest in quantum technology and research to stay ahead of potential threats.

Roese noted that while public key cryptography remained robust todaythe proposed quantum advance was “real enough” and could pose certain risks in the future.

In particular, personal medical information and certain banking data, which were permanent records and would remain relevant ten years from now, must remain secure against future threats.

“So the risk isn’t about exposing the information now, but whether it’s potentially vulnerable ten years from now,” he said, adding that governments would also want to ensure communications between nation-states remain secure decades later, as a infringement could lead to a sticky geopolitical situation.

He pointed to the need for tools to support crypto “agility”, allowing organizations to decide what kind of data to wrap in post-quantum encryption.

When asked where Dell fits in the quantum space, Roese said the technology vendor wasn’t looking for quantum computers. Instead, it was intended to provide the tools and capabilities to put together what was needed to make such systems viable.

Describing the end state of quantum computers as the “quantum sandwich,” he said Dell worked with major quantum players, including IBM, to determine the best way to design and leverage conventional computing architectures, such as servers, so they can run efficiently. working with quantum computers. in the core.

Part of Dell’s efforts here included a hybrid emulation platform that allows developers to run quantum applications on a classic computing infrastructure.

Roese said, “Very few quantum computers are being built these days. To put one into production involves not only the quantum component, but the surrounding parts and you then have to operationalize it.”

Dell hoped to drive this by “industrializing” the innovation and making it usable, he said, adding that it wanted to do this through its quantum simulation platform and hybrid quantum architecture systems.

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