As a management consultant, I spend much of my time advising businesses on how to tighten up their cyber security. So, to ensure I am up to date with my client’s latest concerns, I often explore future threats and their mitigation paths. From ransomware and phishing to internal breaches, hacking to physical theft, 2021 has seen literally tens of millions of data breaches. The disappointing thing is that most of these are entirely preventable and worse, some of the world’s biggest tech companies never detected the breach themselves.
With scanning tools, penetration testing and exhaustive data breach reports (I’m a particular fan of Verizon’s) all readily available and free, it’s a wonder that so many breaches are successful.
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Any CIO/CISO worth their stripes will have long-term plans in place that are future-proofed and will regularly conduct simulation attacks that include both imminent and upcoming threats. Working with this kind of switched on C-level person is a joy – and a rarity. With most companies failing to protect themselves from yesteryear’s threats, it is painfully obvious that future threats are not even on their radar. This becomes even scarier when you consider that we are about to live in a very new world with a technology that will make current encryption obsolete from day one.
That’s right, I’m talking about quantum computers. Now, before you laugh, sneer or turn away, let’s be frank: there is no question that they are coming. The only question that remains up in the air is “when?”.
To quote Forbes council member Gary Fowler: “The reality is, the quantum revolution is already happening — it’s not a product of the future anymore. The question isn’t, ‘When will it impact our lives?’ but rather, ‘How will it change our lives?’ And at this early stage, businesses can begin preparing for the onset of new technology.”
In addition to this, there’s one thing that’s made me keen to help businesses prepare for quantum computing decryption. That is is the fact that cyber criminals are already gathering and storing sensitive data and continually exploring vulnerabilities in business networks that they can then exploit once they have the quantum technology available.
So, rather than sit around and wait for it to happen, I’ve gone searching for the best tools to combat it.
Let’s talk encryption
We all know that PKI encryption is not equipped to deal with Industry 4.0, hyperconnectivity and the IoT. An ancient (in compsci terms) technology, public key infrastructure encryption is past its sell-by date – though, until recently, it was the best we had. Delving into the most elegant algorithms fixes and encryption innovations, I of course came once again to the father of SSL and co-creator of PKI, Dr. Taher Algamal, and what he’s been up to recently.
It turns out that he’s mostly on the board for a few heavy hitters in the cyber security industry, most notably, in the business of nextgen encryption technology, as board director for Arqit Quantum, Inc. This British-based business boasts a staff that any government’s intelligence, defence and IT departments would die to have on their side. And what they’ve created is a simple, yet elegant solution to both the current panoply of threat actors and the imminence of quantum computing decryption.
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But how do they do it?
The trademarked QuantumCloud™ creates software encryption keys (in particular, symmetric keys), which combine patented quantum tech and more traditional methods. What QuantumCloud™ does, in a nutshell, is protects each device in the chain – creating a new symmetric key for each machine.
From the company’s website: “Symmetric keys are provably secure against any attack, including quantum computing. But until now, there was no safe and efficient way to distribute them. Arqit gives you a method to create those keys at scale, securely, at any kind of endpoint device. Arqit’s product, QuantumCloud™ is symmetric encryption, reborn for the cloud.”
For more on the nitty gritty of how this ingenious, zero-trust approach to key creation defends against quantum attacks – and how the company has partnered with Babcock to do real world sim tests – check out this interview with Arqit founder and CEO David Williams
Looking into the company a bit more, I found that seven of the world’s most tech-forward governments (including Japan, the US and UK), along with Honeywell, qtlabs and Verizon are all clients. With a four-star general on the board, as well as what seems to be most of GCHQ’s (that’s MI5 and 6 to me and you) former cyber security team on staff, I’m excited about what Arqit is bringing to decryption prevention.
My conclusion? Well, I’ll be advising large business owners and cyber security leaders that Arqit’s surprisingly inexpensive QuantumCloud™ upgrade is the solution they’re looking for – because, as with all things cyber security, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.