Quantum Escalation of
Network Operations Dynamics
By Ian Jackson
October 11, 2019
Network operations professionals are facing emerging challenges as the development of quantum computing draws near. As quantum computing is in its infancy, the world governments and private organizations are funding research in quantum computing technology in order to remain competitive among the nations of the world. The encryption of information is a method used as “battles” are fought in cyberspace between information security personnel whom are charged with defending sensitive data and information from hackers, those who seek to acquire it for nefarious purposes. This competition between sides is changing as quantum computing is changing the field of cybersecurity.
As information technology develops, the concept of transparency has two sides, one being that information is traceable as functional reality of information systems while this same aspect means that skilled and “interested” individuals can monitor anyone’s activities observable over the internet. As a result, network operations professionals have a mission to be the cybersecurity defense against hackers, and, there are cybersecurity battles fought between these two sides over the internet around the clock.
A method used in cybersecurity is information encryption. A Harvard Law School’s National Security Journal article by Dominic Rota entitled A Quantum Leap in International Law on Cyberwarfare: An Analysis of International Cooperation with Quantum Computing on the Horizon explains how the internet already utilizes “public-key cryptography” to maintain a certain level of privacy between users. The “public-key encryption” may be difficult for the average personal computer (PC) to decrypt, however, the “game” changes with quantum computers. For example, Rota states that “More importantly for the fate of the global encryption paradigm, quantum computers are theorized to not only be faster, but also qualitatively better at factoring, jeopardizing the system of public-key encryption on which the internet relies.” This means that current cybersecurity “strongholds” will pose little challenge for hackers who may use quantum technology to breach cyber defenses both individuals and organizations have invested resources to establish and to maintain.
Companies are beginning to utilize quantum level encryption to transfer money. This is understandable since the there is a reported hacking incident involving bitcoin. A CNBC article by Arjun Kharpal entitled with the headline Hackers steal over $40 million worth of bitcoin from one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges was published earlier this year on May 7, 2019 and later updated on May 8, 2019, reports an incident involving computer hackers stealing “…over $40 million worth of bitcoin from Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges,” along with information belonging to some users.
After gaining access into a computer network, some hackers steal currency while others hold the acquired sensitive information belonging to various organizations for ransom. The Binance.com website mentions that it is “Beyond operating the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, Binance spans an entire ecosystem.” It also states that it averages a daily volume of “1.2 bn” while processing over 1.4 million transactions every second with around the clock support. Kharpal also cites a representative of the Binance.com explaining that a diverse set of penetration methods were executed as a part of the operation. With network operations of this magnitude teamed with the complex nature of blockchain, the technology which the bitcoin protocol is based upon, it makes sense that a complex hacking operation was utilized to breach Binanc.com’s defenses, but, the use of quantum computing could these tasks more efficient, placing a necessity for organizations to dedicate funds for quantum computing level cyber defenses with more network operations personnel that qualified to protect sensitive information.
Since attacks conducted using quantum computer technology will escalate cybersecurity to a higher level, governmental bodies are seeking to upgrade their cyber defense capabilities through the use of quantum computers, and they are attempting to remain ahead of the competition as their resources allow. The US government’s United States Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is developing “quantum resistant algorithms” which are able to be used on a personal computer, as a means to enhance cybersecurity.
Network operations personnel understand the benefit of analyzing a system in order to discover how cyberattacks are carried out against an organization. Without these types of professionals and their training, organizations can easily fall victim to an individual or a team of coordinated individuals involving a cyberattack.