There is increasing threat of cybercriminals leveraging the immense power of quantum computers as a means of infiltrating networks and stealing information.

China is predicted to surpass both the USA and Europe in the field of quantum-related research and development, with Chinese hackers poised to target heavily encrypted datasets (such as information gathered by undercover intelligence officers or weapon designs), storing this information to unlock later once quantum computing has advanced enough to facilitate decryption.

Encrypted data with intelligence longevity – such as covert intelligence source and officer identities, biometric markers, weapons designs, and social security numbers – could increasingly become targets of theft by cybercriminals under the expectation that they could eventually be decrypted in the future. It is suggested that state-aligned cyberthreat actors could intercept or steal encrypted data that was previously unusable.

Quantum computers could one day render the encryption we use today no longer fit for purpose. With the evolution of quantum computers creating a significant threat to data security.

The immense processing power of quantum computers could potentially give cybercriminals the ability to not only break encryption but do so at speed, leaving critical information vulnerable to interception by bad players, with everything from medical data to bank account details to state secrets prone to falling into the wrong hands.

Quantum-safe cryptography is a method of encryption that relies on quantum mechanics to secure and transmit information in a way that cannot be hacked. Cryptography encrypts and protects data, meaning that only the keyholder can decrypt it. Quantum cryptography differs from traditional cryptographic systems, relying on physics rather than mathematics as a key aspect of its security model.

In January 2023, the IBM Institute for Business Value published its Security in the Quantum Era report, examining the reality of quantum risk and identifying the need for adoption of quantum-safe capabilities to protect the integrity of critical infrastructure and applications as the risk of decryption increases.

Specialists refer to this scenario as the “Quantum Apocalypse”, with experts warning that it may be only a matter of years away. Coined “Q-Day” by quantum researchers, the event could see large-scale quantum computers deploying Shor’s algorithm to break public key systems that use integer factorisation-based cryptography and other advanced cryptography.