In the contemporary landscape of technology, information technology (IT) plays a pivotal role across various sectors such as banking, nuclear control, and aerospace operations. The integration of advanced communication systems in fields like aviation has heightened the need for robust cybersecurity measures. Dr. (Prof) Nishakant Ojha, Advisor-Cyber & Aerospace Security (West Asia & Middle Eastern Countries), Eminent Expert-Counter Terrorism, has shared crucial insights on the intersection of quantum technologies and information security.
The aviation industry faces significant threats from cyber-terrorist attacks (CTA), which can lead to economic damage, compromise flight security, and pose potential casualties. Protecting against such attacks is a complex scientific and technical challenge. Cryptographic systems have traditionally been effective in ensuring confidentiality and data integrity during transmission. Quantum cryptography (QC), particularly Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), has emerged as a key player in this scenario.
While there is a growing interest in Quantum Technologies of Information Security (QTIS), the scientific literature lacks a precise classification of these technologies beyond QKD protocols. Quantum key distribution protocols focus on generating and distributing encryption keys between users connected through quantum and classical channels. These protocols, often patented in the U.S., offer advanced information security compared to classical schemes.
The contemporary quantum technology landscape in information security calls for a transparent framework for classification and systematization. QKD protocols, as the most advanced branch of quantum cryptography, continue to undergo development in research institutes for secret key distribution over distant connections. Other QTIS technologies, such as Quantum Secure Direct Communication (QSDC) protocols, quantum secret sharing, quantum stream ciphers, and quantum digital signatures, hold promise in enhancing security levels.
Despite their theoretical promise, many QTIS technologies are still in the experimental stage. For example, QSDC protocols like the ping-pong protocol present an alternative by eliminating the need for encryption but are limited by low data transfer rates in quantum channels.
Implementing QTIS faces technological challenges, but as these technologies develop, they offer a significant leap in communication system security against cyber-terrorist attacks due to their ability to detect eavesdropping consistently.
To address the evolving landscape of quantum technologies, robust policies are essential for standardizing quantum-resistant cryptography. Policies should encompass risk assessment, facilitate the transition to quantum-resistant cryptography, promote international coordination, raise awareness, develop a skilled workforce, and establish dual-use and export control policies.
Noteworthy initiatives, such as the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act, highlight the importance of quantum vulnerability assessments. Similar initiatives on a global scale, led by entities like the European Commission and India, could guide member states and companies in addressing cybersecurity risks posed by quantum computing.
International collaboration is crucial in the realm of quantum technology, as evidenced by initiatives like NIST's PQC project and the EU's InCoQFlag. Collaborative efforts are needed to establish consensus and coordination, ensuring harmonized standards and regulations for quantum technologies in the global supply chain.
Addressing the quantum skills gap requires learning from experiences with AI. Organizations should specify talent needs and focus on roles like quantum hardware engineers, quantum software engineers, and quantum translators. The evolving nature of the market suggests that these roles may require hybrid skills suited to highly skilled workers.
The domain of quantum technologies introduces emerging technologies with unknowns regarding potential consequences. One significant security issue is the ability of quantum computers to decipher protected communications, posing a specific threat to intercepted and stored messages awaiting decryption through future quantum capabilities. Amid general optimism about the positive impacts, referred to as quantum advantage, there is also a normative discussion on whether quantum technologies should be perceived solely as augmentations to classical computers or as entities with distinctive ethical implications.