Enhancing Your Cybersecurity While Preparing for Post-Quantum Cryptography
What is Quantum Computing?
Quantum computing is an emerging technology that leverages the principles of quantum mechanics to perform certain types of computations much faster than current computers. While quantum computing has the potential to bring about significant advancements in various fields, including cybersecurity, it also poses unique challenges and threats to cybersecurity.
Quantum computers have the potential to break widely used encryption algorithms, such as RSA and ECC (elliptic curve cryptography), that rely on the difficulty of factoring large numbers or solving discrete logarithm problems. Quantum algorithms like Shor's algorithm can efficiently solve these mathematical problems, which form the basis of classical encryption.
This is a problem because encryption offers crucial benefits in safeguarding sensitive information. It provides a robust layer of security by transforming data into an unreadable format, ensuring that only authorized parties with the corresponding decryption key can access and understand the content. This protection is vital in preventing unauthorized access, maintaining confidentiality, and thwarting cyber threats such as data breaches and identity theft.
Additionally, encryption contributes to the integrity of communication channels, assuring that transmitted data remains unchanged during transit. In an era marked by digital advancements and increasing cyber risks, encryption stands as a fundamental tool for preserving privacy, securing transactions, and fostering trust in the digital realm. The rise of quantum computers threatens a fundamental layer of security that we all rely on.
This threat has not gone unnoticed, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) collaborated on a paper “Quantum-Readiness: Migration To Post-Quantum Cryptography” to explain “the impacts of quantum capabilities, and to encourage the early planning for migration to post-quantum cryptographic standards by developing a Quantum-Readiness Roadmap.”
Why Is This Important?
Every single company uses encryption. From securing your website to performing financial transactions, once you start looking you will soon realize that there are many parts of your company that rely on encryption.
Suppose your company also uses cryptography in your product or solutions. In that case, you need to have this on your roadmap and be in contact with the vendors that handle your cryptographic functions (if it’s not an in-house capability).
The good news is that companies and organizations that created the cryptography we use are continuously working on fixing it and making it better. The dangers of quantum computing have been known for years, and as quantum computing has gotten more powerful, the drive to find the next level of security has grown as well. This new post-quantum encryption is also referred to as quantum-safe cryptography.
What Do You Need to Do to Secure Your Company?
Identify Your Critical Functions and Create an Asset Inventory
Before you can protect your company you need to be able to identify your critical business functions. These are the core functions that are essential to your company’s ability to continue doing business.
Every critical business function relies on IT assets to provide that service to the business, including endpoints, servers, cloud software, and more. Understanding your IT assets, including the encryption methods and algorithms used, is crucial for identifying systems and data at risk from future quantum attacks. This understanding is the first step in transitioning to quantum-safe cryptography to protect sensitive information and intellectual property
In the past, companies would compile an asset inventory using a combination of several different techniques:
Use automated tools to scan network IP ranges.
Physically inspect and document assets.
Use asset management software.
Install agent software on devices to gather and report asset information.
Employ cloud-based services to discover and manage cloud assets and services.
Review documentation, purchase records, and invoices.
Use physical or digital asset tags to identify and track assets.
Encourage users to report their assigned assets.
Each of these techniques has its disadvantages. Some rely on the organization to already be using a tracking solution. Others ignore large categories of assets, such as how cloud-based services can’t give you a view of your non-cloud assets or how physical asset tags can’t keep track of software-based assets. Most of these techniques are also excessively manual, tedious, and/or time-consuming, and combining multiple techniques makes the process even more cumbersome and prone to errors. It can also disrupt your business as employees are pulled away from their usual activities.
Redjack has found that companies typically only have visibility into around 30% of their actual IT infrastructure.
A new technique that is being used to compile an asset inventory is to place sensors in your network that capture communications data and use AI-driven analysis to create a map of your corporate infrastructure. This gives you complete visibility into the true extent of your IT asset infrastructure, including which assets are interrelated or interdependent.
The benefits of a communications-based approach to IT asset management include:
Speed: Quickly complete an initial inventory and update it dynamically as your environment changes.
Visibility: Sensors used collect data from cloud, on-premises, and container-based assets alike, eliminating the need to collect and compile separate sets of data.
Scalability: Collect petabytes of communications flow data across large enterprises without much effort.
Prioritization: Optimize your planning to prioritize your efforts on the most important, business-critical functions. Understand interdependencies between critical functions and assets. Locate weak points in your organization, such as shadow IT or clusters of insecure systems connected to a critical business function.
This modern technique ensures a comprehensive and up-to-date IT asset inventory that will facilitate your quantum readiness planning.
Evaluate Your IT Assets in the Context of Quantum Readiness
Once you have an asset inventory, you can evaluate your IT assets in the context of quantum computing. This is critical when preparing for post-quantum cryptography for several reasons:
Quantum-Safe Cryptography Transition
As quantum computing technology advances, traditional encryption methods that rely on the difficulty of factoring large numbers or solving discrete logarithm problems become vulnerable. Understanding your IT assets, including the encryption methods and algorithms used, is crucial for identifying systems and data at risk from future quantum attacks. This understanding is the first step in transitioning to quantum-safe cryptography to protect sensitive information.
Understanding your IT assets allows you to conduct a risk assessment in the context of quantum computing. You can identify which assets are most at risk due to potential quantum attacks and prioritize the implementation of quantum-resistant cryptographic methods for protecting them. This proactive approach helps mitigate quantum-related security risks.
Organizations often store sensitive data that must be protected for extended periods, even beyond the expected timeline for developing large-scale quantum computers. Understanding your IT assets, particularly the data stored and its importance, is critical for determining the urgency of implementing quantum-resistant encryption to safeguard that data against future quantum threats.
Preparing for quantum computing involves transitioning to quantum-safe cryptography and ensuring that your IT infrastructure is equipped to handle the requirements of quantum-resistant algorithms. This may include hardware upgrades or changes to accommodate the increased computational demands of quantum-safe encryption methods.
Quantum Key Distribution
Quantum key distribution (QKD) is a technology that leverages quantum principles to secure communication channels by generating unbreakable encryption keys. Understanding your IT assets allows you to identify areas where QKD may be beneficial for enhancing communications security, especially for protecting critical data and sensitive communications.
Compliance and Regulations
In some industries and sectors, compliance regulations mandate the use of specific encryption standards and data protection measures. Understanding your IT assets helps ensure that you remain compliant with these regulations, even as quantum computing evolves and necessitates changes in encryption practices.
Budget and Resource Allocation
Understanding your IT assets, including their value and importance, aids in allocating resources effectively. You can prioritize quantum-related cybersecurity initiatives based on the criticality of the assets being protected, ensuring that budget and efforts are focused on the most essential areas.
Understanding your IT assets is closely related to quantum computing in the context of cybersecurity. It allows organizations to assess risk, prioritize quantum-resistant measures, protect sensitive data, plan infrastructure changes, and remain compliant with evolving regulations—all essential components of a comprehensive quantum readiness strategy.
While quantum computing poses a significant threat to existing encryption methods, it also offers opportunities for enhancing security through quantum-safe cryptographic techniques and quantum key distribution. Preparing for the era of quantum computing is essential to ensure the continued security of sensitive data and communications.
To do this, you need to understand your business. You need solid, data-based proof that allows the organization to prioritize what's important, align efforts to a cohesive plan, and justify the resources needed. Identifying critical functions involves comprehensively examining the organization's operations and dependencies, including developing a complete list of hardware and software IT assets across the organization. It allows you to create risk assessments and impact assessments to help quantify the potential risks, prioritize mitigation efforts, and make your organization more resilient overall.
The Redjack Approach
To fully leverage the advantages and disadvantages of quantum cryptography, it is necessary to develop a thorough approach. One option is to employ an AI engine, such as the Redjack Platform, which can analyze your IT business communications. By utilizing the insights gained from this analysis, you can gain a deep understanding of the scope and composition of your IT environment. Armed with this information, you can develop a data-centric strategy to improve the efficiency of both your IT operations and overall business functions. This will ultimately transform cybersecurity into a valuable asset, enhancing cyber resilience and strategic planning.
Contact us to learn how Redjack has been helping the CISOs of the world's largest corporations and government agencies manage their cyber risk.