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CISOs Beware: Chinese Threat Groups Expected to Use Quantum Computers to Decrypt Data, Says Report

CISOs Beware: Chinese Threat Groups Expected to Use Quantum Computers to Decrypt Data, Says Report

cisos-beware-chinese-threat-groups-expected-to-use-quantum-computers
December 3, 2021 | Brooke Crothers

By the end of the decade, more benign applications of quantum computing will overlap with Chinese strategic priorities outlined in the draft 14th Five-Year Plan—a key document that parallels Chinese economic-espionage goals, according to Booz Allen Hamilton. As a result, in the 2020s, Chinese economic espionage is expected to target data theft that would feed quantum simulations.

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As Quantum computing evolves from the theoretical to the practical, data theft is expected to be an unfortunate consequence. And CISOs should be on guard.  

Today, quantum computers at global institutions can complete certain tasks orders of magnitude faster than any classical supercomputer. While this is expected to have benign applications in areas such as pharmaceuticals and materials science, China’s state security apparatus will also take advantage of the power of quantum computing, according to a new report from Booz Allen Hamilton

The report cited several anticipated threats from China:  

  • Theft of fundamental pharmaceutical, chemical, and material science research for use in quantum-assisted simulations 

  • Theft of encrypted data with an expectation of future quantum-assisted decryption 

  • Adversarial development of quantum-assisted decryption sooner than quantum-resistant encryption can be deployed 

  • Unobservable adversarial development of quantum-assisted decryption 

  • Strategic surprise as novel quantum cases shape unexpected threats 

Many Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) “lack insight into the practical importance of quantum computing and how to manage related risks,” according to the report.  

Most importantly, CISOs don’t know how and when the technology will be mature enough to make it practical and how this may “shape the behavior of threat actors such as China, a persistent cyber adversary of government and commercial organizations globally and a major developer of quantum-computing technology.”  

Quantum computers will undermine all public-key encryption 

The report goes on to predict that quantum computers will “eventually undermine all popular current public-key encryption methods, and plausibly boost the speed and power of artificial intelligence (AI).” 

China, as an emerging major player in quantum computing, will use it as for cyber-enabled espionage, according to Booz Allen. 

“Since the mid-2010s, the Chinese government has publicly identified quantum computing as a key strategic technology for its economy and national security,” Booz Allen said, adding that China has the human capital, monetary investment, and policy support to narrow the gap with the U.S. 

The report continues. “Quantum computing is non-intuitive; understanding its security impact is challenging, and its future development timeline is murky. Our research found that China’s current capabilities and long-term goals related to quantum computing will very likely shape the near-term targets and objectives of its cyber-enabled espionage. The more CISOs know about these emerging risks, the better able they will be to address them in strategic risk-mitigation plans.” 

Incorporating new crypto into machine identity management strategy is a great place for organizations to start. Venafi is thinking ahead here by partnering with leaders in hybrid-quantum solutions. Organizations can begin now with quantum-safe machine identities today with integrations that Crypto4A and ISARA have built for the Venafi Trust Protection Platform. You can learn more about our quantum-ready integrations on the Venafi Marketplace. 

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Brooke Crothers
Brooke Crothers
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