Thwack! There are no timeouts in dodgeball
Thwack! There are no timeouts in dodgeball.
I’ve just come back from the ETSI Quantum Safe Workshop 2019 hosted by AWS, IQC, and ETSI. There I enjoyed the chance to present the University of Bristol’s Quantum Communications Hub work and KETS Quantum Security’s efforts to commercialise our chip-based approach to quantum encryption and get it out into the real world.
It was also great to hear the latest updates on all of the quantum safe work going on, from our friends in quantum encryption at ID Quantique and Toshiba; to those working hard on post-quantum algorithms including AWS, Microsoft and many others; from the hardware vendors and service operators like Cisco and Cloudflare trying to incorporate and deploy these new techniques; finally to the ones that are working hard to set the standards and ensure interoperability of all of these new techniques like NIST and ETSI.
We also got a great overview of the work happening at the national levels in the UK, Netherlands, US, Germany, China, and Canada to prepare their countries for cyber resilience with the dawn of quantum computers. And perhaps most fascinating of all was the updates of quantum computing advancements from IBM and Microsoft. Microsoft, in particular, announced its huge new Azure Quantum initiative which not only makes a ton of new quantum computing tools available to industry and the public but has now expanded to include integration with 3rd party quantum computing hardware such as IonQ.
Perhaps the best line of the whole conference was delivered by Michele Mosca (IQC) when he said “there’s no time-outs in dodgeball”. This was hysterical, given the timing and context, as he related a story about his son asking for a timeout in dodgeball and getting upset when he was thwacked in the head when none was given. But it was also extremely sobering since we seem to be proceeding with the exact same expectation when it comes to the security of our IT infrastructure that now runs the planet.
We’ve long put off tackling this challenge, because it’s costly and complex, thinking that it’s tomorrow’s problem. But a Global Director of Quantum Innovation in the financial services sector quickly debunked this notion, perpetuated by naysayers, that the timeline for when we’ll have a quantum computer extends from now to potentially never and thus we don’t need to worry yet. Google’s quantum supremacy announcement has changed all that. Even if you believe Google’s advancement was more modest than originally reported, it’s now clear that we’ll reach this mark very soon. We’ve now entered an era where the timeline for a quantum computer to break our current encryption is NOT NEVER anymore! We’ve clearly moved from a discussion of whether to a discussion of when.
As soon as you understand this, the next question is – what are the implications? To put it mildly, they’re staggering! We’re talking about the largest product recall in the history of the planet – we’ve never replaced the entire cryptographic infrastructure of the internet before. To put it into context, the first public discussion of the Y2K bug occurred as early as 1984, with emails floating around companies like IBM by 1989. 16 years of planning to add a couple of extra bits to our date fields in our computer systems. Compare that to what we’re now facing.
Companies and countries need to start preparing now, since execution is 90% planning and 10% doing. Those that prepare will thrive… those that don’t might never recover. Because remember, there’s no timeouts in dodgeball… and certainly none in the real world.
The next workshop is already scheduled for Sept 29 – Oct 1, 2020 in the beautiful south of France at ETSI HQ. If you’re a company that is serious about preparing your cyber security and secure IT infrastructure for a world in which quantum computers exist, this is THE event not to miss. In a few short days you hear about some of the latest advancements in quantum computing, get updates on the latest methods and options for quantum-safe crypto, and hear how to start implementing them from the vendors and standards bodies.
It would be great to see you there. And if you do come, make sure you stop in and say hi to us at the KETS booth!
Chris Erven, November 2019
Originally published as part of Tech UK’s #QuantumFuture campaign.