It is no secret that breakthroughs in quantum technology pose a cyber security risk, but what is anyone doing about it?
Public Safety Canada, a department of the Government of Canada, recently announced $675,000 in funding via the Cyber Security Cooperation Program, which supports projects under the government of Canada’s National Cyber Security Strategy. The funding was directed to Quantum-Safe Canada, a non-profit organization providing a “bridge between fundamental quantum-safe cryptography research and innovation, practical applications and commercialisation.”
In announcing the funding, the Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, acknowledged the growing risk of quantum threats to national security: “In the 21st century, cyber security is national security. This project will help better protect Canadians against cyber threats, in particular the growing risk posed by quantum threats. More broadly, it’s an important element of our robust strategy to defend Canada and the crucial infrastructure that Canadians rely on.”
Indeed, Quantum-Safe Canada will use the funds for their Laying the Foundations for a Quantum-Safe Canada project, which aims to educate and prepare for the “quantum threat”.
In particular, the funds will be used to “help identify the skills needed for the transition and implementation stages so vendors, colleges and universities can train and expand the workforce.” Michele Mosca, executive director for Quantum-Safe Canada, has stressed the importance of training a broad cross section of vocations: “[i]t’s not just a few computer science programmers writing code […] project planners, mangers, system integrators, experts in risk assessments, business analysts and more will be needed.”
Mosca has further discussed the forthcoming “existential threat” posed by quantum computers and the importance of preparedness. Mosca believes practical quantum computing will be a reality within 15 years, with the possibility of earlier breakthroughs. Though 15 years may seem distant, the timeline for developing and migrating to quantum safe solutions is long, and requires proactive planning. In particular, Mosca has stated that “[t]he top critical infrastructures with a big IT footprint really should be wrapping up their preparation and assessment phase in a year or so and be starting the roadmapping by 2024.”
Thus, though the timeline to obtaining a quantum advantage remains relatively unclear, it is abundantly clear that preparations for safeguarding against potential quantum threats should begin in earnest.