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Underestimated Risk: Quantum Computers Can Crack Encryption

Ongoing digitization, legal requirements such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation, or new internal processes – the plan of decision-makers and IT managers is extended. So it is more than understandable to relocate future topics such as quantum computing exactly there – into the future. But be careful: once the supercomputers are available to cybercriminals, it could be too late for some protective measures. Future-proof solutions, for example, offer options for post-quantum cryptography in the form of hardware security modules (HSM).

Experts estimate that quantum computers will be commercially available in the next five to fifteen years. First of all, that’s good news because the enormous computing power opens up completely new dimensions, such as handling big data, image analysis, or optimizing supply networks.

The downside, however, is that hackers and data spies will also abuse this potential for their purposes – for example, to crack complex encryption procedures and access encrypted data. It is particularly dangerous that this point in time could come before the mass use of quantum computers.

Because once cracked, an algorithm is no longer trustworthy and therefore worthless. Asymmetric cryptographic systems, so-called public-key systems, are primarily at risk. The shared encryption standard is used in countless applications, such as electronic door locking systems, smartphones, security cameras and sensors in building technology, smartwatches, smart meters, and intelligent entertainment electronics systems.

Sit Out? Just Don’t!

There is still no immediate danger for companies and public institutions. But it would be dangerous to put the topic at the bottom of the list of upcoming IT tasks. On the contrary: decision-makers and those responsible for IT security are well-advised to prepare for the age of quantum computers and post-quantum cryptography today.

One reason: the life cycle of systems and products such as machines, vehicles, or satellites is often ten years or more. As part of Industry 4.0 projects, these components are networked with one another and with IT systems and exchange data. Encryption protects such environments from attacks. However, when planning and purchasing encryption solutions such as hardware security modules, it is essential to ensure that they are still secure at the end of the life cycle of the systems and products.

That Makes A Sustainable Solution

Crypto experts recommend considering the following factors when choosing an encryption solution:

  • Updates should also work in the field, for example, by reloading firmware or scripts with new algorithms. In this way, new (post-quantum) encryption techniques can be implemented with reasonable effort; necessary certifications are retained.
  • The solution should support considerable vital lengths.
  • The computing power should be generous, as replacing hardware components for encryption is often tricky.

So the motto is to act. Companies of all sizes and from all industries have to deal with their risks and post-quantum cryptographic technologies. Only those who know their chances can minimize them with the solutions that are now available. Regardless of when quantum computers will be public – the right security strategy must be available at all times.

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