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Quantum Computing

Posted by Emily
February 26, 2020 | 6 minute read

Changing the cybersecurity landscape

The generation of quantum computing has the potential to transform the cybersecurity industry. Though still in its infancy, quantum computing is nevertheless an impending reality. I sat down with the Chief Technology Officer of our Advanced Technology Business Unit, Dr. Rian Quinn, to understand the implications of this new technology and how we plan on leveraging quantum computing in the future.

To what extent do you see quantum computing changing how work is done at AIS?

Simply put, quantum computing is just another computer that just so happens to be faster at calculating certain types of problems. Years ago, if we wanted to calculate the amount of water a wine glass could hold, we would get a measuring tape and work out all the math by hand to determine the glass’ internal volume. Today, with classical computers, all the math can be done automatically for us, but this processing still takes time. Tomorrow, with quantum computers, we would simply fill the glass with water and measure how much water we got. Obviously, that is not how quantum computers work, but that is essentially the idea. Instead of running through all the math, we simply let quantum computers play out a scenario and then we measure the result.

To date, AIS focuses primarily on cyber-related problems and we use classical computers to solve them. I don’t envision quantum computing taking over classical computers any time soon as quantum computers would have to be capable of solving generic problems while simultaneously outperforming classical computers in not just speed, but also cost, size, power, etc., which is a long way out.

Quantum computing does, however, provide promise in the near-term for being able to solve nondeterministic polynormal (NP) type problems in cyber faster than a classical computer, which could provide our customers with an edge. For example, today we use static analysis tools to analyze software for vulnerabilities. These tools run into execution paths within the software that can take a long time to analyze with classical computers. Quantum computers could provide a means to speed up this analysis, allowing us to analyze software not possible with classical computers, or at the very least, perform the analysis faster.

I also don’t see AIS having to become experts in physics to play in this space. Companies like IBM have taken on the challenge of creating the quantum computer for us, providing simple cloud-based application program interfaces (APIs) to use these quantum computers as needed. Our expertise in cyber uniquely qualifies us to explore how these quantum computers can be used to benefit our customers in real-world environments. In other words, the quantum computer for AIS is really nothing more than a faster calculator that we can use to enhance and improve our existing capabilities.

How will quantum computing positively influence the cybersecurity field?

That is an interesting question. Everyone tends to focus on how quantum computing has the potential to decrypt encrypted data quickly, which could bring the entire internet to its knees, not to mention the impact on how to properly secure nation state data knowing that in 5 years, everything that we have been encrypting for the past 30 years could be at risk. Although this sounds horrible, in my opinion, quantum computing provides opportunities for cybersecurity (and AIS) to develop better encryption algorithms and learn how to use quantum computers to solve cybersecurity related problems that classical computers are simply too slow to solve. In other words, quantum computers offer the potential for a massive leap in cybersecurity capabilities in the future.

What are the barriers right now for implementing quantum computing at AIS?

Honestly, there really aren’t many. Like I said before, companies like IBM already provide cloud-based APIs for working with quantum computers. The barriers for AIS mostly have to do with perception and learning how to use these existing capabilities and identifying the types of problems that quantum computing can enhance in the field of cyber. Like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in today’s economy, I suspect the biggest issues are acquiring the right talent and proving to our customers that we are uniquely qualified to play in this space.

What are the concerns surrounding the use of quantum computers?

Encryption for sure. The world is racing to create a quantum computer that can break encryption, and we are not far off. The question is: once we achieve this milestone, are we prepared? My concern is, I think the answer is “no”, which means we could be looking at a future where simple things like buying diapers on Amazon would be impossible. Most of the news today hyper focuses on AI taking over the world, but the reality is, quantum computers could be on a trajectory to be a huge problem well before Skynet kills us all.

Can you name a specific opportunity for AIS in terms of using quantum computing?

Cyber in coordination with our current customers. Like I said before, the field of cybersecurity is loaded with limitations imposed by classical computers that quantum computers promise to overcome, and AIS is uniquely qualified to lead the way.

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