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    EDITORIAL In cybercrime a quantum isn’t very much solace

    Back in January, when I mentioned quantum security as something to watch out for in 2024, I admit I did so with my tongue somewhat in my cheek. I am aware of quantum computing – Hey, I watched DEVS on Apple ages ago – but I had no idea that it was sufficiently advanced that not only were scientists using it, but so too where cyber criminals.

    Yet here we are. This week, connection security company Surfshark released a study that looked at just how quantum secure messaging apps are. In other words, how resistant to a quantum computer hack are they? Turns out they aren’t. But is that really a surprise and should we be worried about this in the telemedia industry?

    Well, messaging accounts for billions of dollars of traffic, underpins many of the services operated within the sector and, as CPaaS becomes more prevalent, is a crucial business tool. Anything that threatens this is of course a risk, but with AIT and other frauds already impacting SMS, do we need to worry about quantum computer attacks just yet?

    The answer is yes. Quantum computing increases computing power by an almost unimaginable degree. Google claims to have used its own prototype quantum computers to solve problems that would take ‘normal’ supercomputers more than 10,000 years to solve in 200 seconds. With such immense processing power, quantum computers offer much to the world, including to those that want to do us harm.

    Think about AI-based message fraud, where AI impersonates someone by text; given the power of a quantum computer, this could be done on the fly, at scale and potentially fast enough and smart enough to work around any security that is applied and bingo, fraud has been committed.

    Such hacking is just the top of the iceberg. Such processing power moves the already industrial scale ability to commit cyber crime to a level that is exponentially more intense than ever before. In fact, so power is quantum computing, that it would only need one cyber criminal to have access to one quantum computer to disrupt an entire company or even an entire industry.

    And this is the problem that Surfshark has flagged up around messaging. No one is remotely ready for this threat – even the two messaging platforms, iMessage and Telegram, that its study shows are the most secure.

    Quantum encryption

    So, what is the answer? Well fighting fire with fire: quantum computers are, thanks to their enormous processing power, able to very rapidly spot fraud as it occurs. Deployed against today’s ‘conventional’ cyber crime would be a blow against the scammer like no other. However, once they too have access to this tech, a machine-on-machine fight is on, just at a scale and speed that our puny human brains can barely fathom.

    Quantum computers can also be used to encrypt messages. And this is where it gets weird. According to Delft University’s QuTech research institute, unlike classical encryption, which relies on mathematical complexity to protect information, quantum encryption uses the properties of quantum mechanics to ensure that any attempt to intercept or eavesdrop on the transmission of information will be immediately detected, and the communication can be aborted.

    Quantum security is based on the use of quantum key distribution (QKD), which enables two parties to share a secret key that can be used to encrypt and decrypt messages. QKD relies on the principles of quantum mechanics, which allow for the creation of entangled particles that can be used to transmit information securely over long distances. QKD is resistant to all known attacks, including those that exploit the power of quantum computers, which are expected to break many classical encryption algorithms.

    So, that is one to watch for 2024: quantum cybercrime and quantum cyber protection. This weird branch of physics has suddenly become very real and is set to have an impact on telemedia that one could only have imagined three months ago.

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