Y2Q - the quantum threat to our data & communications
Y2Q - the Y2K of the quantum era. Bust or boom?
Together with Quantropi we are excited to be able to share a free copy of our new report ”Y2Q - the quantum threat to our data & communications”.
The first public mentions of Y2Q emerged as early as 2016, especially in a noted article by Alex Hutchinson entitled “Hacking, Cryptography, and the Countdown to Quantum Computing” in the New Yorker.
As the author explains “The ‘Y2Q’ handle makes explicit the parallels between the quantum threat and the Y2K bug, which, at the turn of the millennium, was supposed to make the world’s computers think it was 1900 again, bringing civilization to a grinding halt. In the popular imagination, Y2K has become a punchline, a prophecy of doom unfulfilled, like the Maya calendar turned out to be in 2012.”
This also coincides with the first known estimation on the potential timeline of Y2Q by “Michele Mosca, a professor at the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing and the co-host of the workshop, pegged the odds of reaching Y2Q by 2026 at one in seven, rising to one in two by 2031.”
Six years later those estimates are surprisingly aligned with many of today’s expert opinions. If in only 9 short years there indeed is a 50% chance of a Y2Q like event occurring, any critical infrastructure provider, government facility, defense provider, financial services provider and even simple end-user should be in panic by now as enterprise implementation of a potential defense against it is a tall order in such a short time frame.
But, we aren’t.
Quantum Computers make this threat exponentially more pressing.
With its properties of superposition and entanglement, these new machines are maturing fast and, in theory, will be able to break our digital infrastructure much more easily, completely and in the near future.
While our modern infrastructure relies on the expertise of a few, hacking it, in a classical computing age is a big effort that we are well aware of, and somewhat prepared for.
The tug-of-war between experts and hackers is a perpetual game of always staying one step ahead of the other. To date, the ‘good guys” win more often than they lose, and we understand the steps it takes to improve our defenses, with technology that exists today. While in this classical computing world we will never be entirely safe, we also will never be entirely taken down.
You might say that is all fine and good but why stress - we have at least another 5 years, and probably more, to ‘invent’ and test proper defenses against such a malicious quantum computing attack.
And while that might be true, the challenge is one that Mosca, of above Y2Q prediction fame, coined into his well known law.
The upshot of his theory is simple: the time it might take for an attacker to mature the necessary quantum technology potentially is less than the time required to create the necessary defenses and then also put in place the necessary regulations and standard around it for safe roll-out within critical infrastructure - a multi-year process at best, leaving us with a potential blind-spot margin of up to several years.
The state of security 2022 report reveals a significant increase in cyber attacks. According to the report 65% of respondents say that they have seen an increase in attempted cyber attacks; nearly half of organizations say they have suffered a data breach over the past two years, an increase from 39% a year earlier.
79% of respondents say they've encountered ransomware attacks and 35% admit that one or more of those attacks led them to lose access to data and systems. 59% of respondents report that the business critical applications have suffered from unplanned outages related to cyber security incidents and 64% of security professionals have stated that it is challenging to keep up with new security requirements up from 49% a year earlier.
US officials increasingly warn about Russian cyber attacks in the wake of the Ukraine war. Deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco from the Department of Justice and the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CSISA) said that she is seeing Russian State actors scanning, probing, and looking for opportunities and weaknesses in our systems and critical infrastructure as well as businesses.
At the same time Chinese cyber attacks on NATO countries have increased 116% says a recent study by cyber security firm Checkpoint Research.
This is leading many large corporations and infrastructure providers to rethink their security posture.
JPMorgan Chase, for example, is making an impressive commitment to be ready for a post quantum security world. JP Morgan researchers are working on multiplexed QKD channels with ultra high bandwidth to secure data streams. They are testing the co-existence of new quantum channels with their classical infrastructure. And efforts are underway to put quantum safe networks in place that can carry data over distances of up to 100 km.
Google’s parent Alphabet has spun out a new company, Sandbox AQ, offering enterprises artificial intelligence and quantum computing software as a service.
The company is starting life with two major research objectives. The first is the creation of post-quantum cryptosystems and related privacy-enhancing technologies, in an attempt to keep data secure should quantum computing develop to the point of rendering today’s encryption techniques obsolete.
The second is the creation of a novel navigation system based on geophysical signals (such as local variations in the earth’s magnetic and gravitational fields) rather than satellites. Sandbox AQ suggests such a system could be useful for autonomous vehicles or in areas where access to global navigational satellite systems (GNSSs) is denied.
Data harvesting - the concept of collecting as much personal and commercial data as possible today and hacking it later when the necessary tools will be available - has also reached new heights.
Just a month ago it was discovered that Russian Internet company Yandex was harvesting Apple and Google app store users by the millions, sending all data straight to Russian servers.
Consider some of the episodes last year in which large quantities of personal data were stolen: 300 million customer and device records for users of a service that’s supposed to shield internet traffic from prying eyes; a 17.6-million-row database from a second organization, containing profiles of people who participated in its market research surveys; 59 million email addresses and other personal data lifted from a third company. These sorts of numbers barely raise an eyebrow these days; none of the incidents generated major press coverage.
It is estimated that 200M Americans have been harvested, 8B files stored and over 7M databases breached.
Get the full, free report with all the data, analysis and conclusions below
I am excited to be hosting the first day, Tuesday June 14th, of the Quantum.Tech Boston summit.
And look forward to seeing many of you in person again, sign up here Quantum.Tech Boston.
We launched a number of new analysis, notably:
An updated dashboard on Investments in Quantum Tech
A new dashboard on the Quantum Tech ecosystem in Germany
A new overview of the global Quantum Computing ecosystem
If you would like to learn more about any of them please reach out directly.
The president of our Chile chapter, Raul Palacios, will be speaking at Quantum Latino next week
Join in person or online at Quantum Latino.
Our UK team, led by John Barnes, will be presenting and hosting at the Quantum Computing Summit London during the same week.
You can join here Quantum Computing Summit.
Africa is making big strides again with the Africa Day.
With an additional update from Ghana
The most recent edition of ‘The Quantum Analyst Roundtable’ looks at the commercialization of quantum computing and its maturity.
Check us out online or on YouTube - I promise it’s time well spent.
News & Updates
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Personally, I am a big fan of Sergio Gago’s weekly news update (see below) and won’t even attempt to outdo him - go read Quantum Pirates 🏴☠️
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