By Anne Morris
Operators advised to prep for a quantum future now
While cryptographically relevant quantum computers do not exist yet, the security risks they pose means the telecoms industry should start planning a quantum-safe journey now, according to Lory Thorpe, an industry partner for Telco Transformation Consulting at IBM.
“In a future with cryptographically relevant quantum computers, telecommunications could be one of the most impacted industries because the systems are complex, often with a significant legacy presence,” said Thorpe. “This makes the process more challenging when it comes to getting overall visibility of where cryptography is used and in implementing a plan based on prioritisation of risks.”
The good news, said Thorpe, is that quantum-safe cryptography as well as “cryptographic bill of materials” assessment tools exist today. It is therefore already possible to begin protecting confidential business information and consumer data “that could be at risk from attackers who harvest present-day data for later decryption, waiting for access to a cryptographically relevant quantum computer”.
Thorpe points to IoT devices, which “have a long install life, so it is important to start securing them now. However, this will definitely be a multi-year effort, as it can take a long time to assess the scope of changes required, plan for them, and ultimately implement them.”
Thorpe further noted that while quantum computing holds immense potential, opening up new opportunities to solve problems that today’s computers will never be able to solve, “could also pose a threat”.
“It is theoretically possible that in the future, a powerful enough quantum computer could break industry standard encryption such as RSA,” he said.