Prepare yourself now, no crashes later

The enormous computing power of the quantum computer will have a broad and disruptive impact on our economy. And also major consequences for the current encryption and secure business processes, according to Marco Doeland and Oscar Covers, cybersecurity experts at the Dutch Banking Association (NVB). The Dutch banking sector is well prepared for this ‘new millennium error’ and shares its expertise internationally with othersArticles. This article first appeared in Bank | Wereld Online, a publication of the Dutch Banking Association.

Asked what the status of the quantum computer is now, Marco Doeland, chief information security officer (CISO) at NVB, answers: “Google has one, and so does IBM. But they are not yet scalable and can therefore not be used as a generic quantum computer. It is expected that this will be the case in 10 to 15 years, because development is going at lightning speed. “

“It is therefore not a question of, but when the quantum computer will be introduced. The impact will be enormous. The quantum computer will help us find new medicine. It will be much more efficient to mimic chemical processes in nature, but it will also affect the current encryption and secure business processes. “

No crashes

Banks make extensive use of encryption – including to secure transactions. “But the advent of the quantum computer is no cause for panic,” Doeland stresses, “because organizations can already make a number of choices in preparation. Banks, for example, are cooperating with the interbank to prepare. “

“The industry started with an inventory to determine what types of encryption are used where. They then take steps to gradually introduce secure quantum-resistant encryption as part of regular replacement cycles. By making these choices now and products with long-term encryption it is probably now you avoid having to perform ‘crash actions’ later. “

There is also great international interest in the way the Dutch banking sector is preparing, says Doeland: “We received enthusiastic responses to previous articles, and our message in the chapter we wrote in today’s Interdisciplinary Aspects of Digital Security is: the faster you do the right choices based on the information you then have, the better prepared you are and the lower the cost of adjustments needed for the security threat posed by this new development. ”

Arithmetic threshold

What exactly is the threat posed by the quantum computer? “Because the quantum computer computes in a completely different way than the current computer,” says Oscar Covers – cyber security analyst at NVB. The encryption we use creates a kind of ‘arithmetic threshold’ that is adapted to today’s computer architecture for our current encryption. But what is a math problem for today’s computer is not always for the quantum computer. Some of the current encryption can be easily cracked. ”

“Encryption can be roughly divided into symmetric and asymmetric encryption. The first is good to reasonably resistant to the quantum computer and can quite easily be made ‘quantum computer safe’. This does not apply to the other type of encryption. The difficult part is that encryption protocols are used everywhere and nowhere in organizations. So the first challenge is: gain insight into which business processes are using encryption algorithms and then: which ones are involved? “

“Then you can look for good alternatives and find out how long it takes to implement them. Making business processes quantum clear can be compared to the Y2K – the millennium error – or the arrival of the euro. But we do not yet know about the generic quantum computer. Exactly when it’s coming, so how much time do we have left? “

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