Microsoft warns about quantum computing cyber threats

Global giant Microsoft is advising organisations to begin preparing for potential cyberattacks based on quantum technology

We are currently experiencing an era marked by technological evolution. According to Microsoft, ‘Advances in ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence transform nearly every aspect of work and life’, and as the world continues to progress with new innovations and decentralised technologies, it is imperative that potential security risks are understood.

Recently, Microsoft has advised organisations to begin initiating preparations for potential cyberattacks based on quantum technology. This initiative seeks to enhance the understanding of how various companies are equipped to handle this potential risk. The organisation is encouraging businesses to fill out a questionnaire, which would serve as a tool for both the software giant and organisations alike to assess their current cybersecurity status, identify areas requiring focus, and explore potential support, including access to expert assistance.

Cutting-edge technology development

Microsoft is making an investment in CodeQL, a software tool that can be used to analyse program code. CodeQL has the potential to create a "cryptographic bill of materials," which would identify areas in older cryptographic technology that needs to be updated or improved.

Microsoft also introduced the Crypto Experience for Azure Quantum Resource Estimator, which can be used to assess the security of public keys that are currently in use. A major advantage of this tool is it integrates well with Copilot, Microsoft's AI offering that includes features under the Azure Quantum umbrella.

The potential impact of quantum computing

In a previous blog post, Microsoft explained some of the limitations that quantum computers have, in terms of breaking the encryption technology of today. The post explains how the emergence of scaled quantum computers using Shor’s algorithm could make public key encryption vulnerable and compromise sensitive information.

Although it might take a 1 million qubit quantum computer to break certain encryption algorithms using Shor's algorithm, bad actors could start recording data now and decrypt it later when powerful quantum computers become available. So, it's important to know which data to protect now to ensure a quantum-safe future. 

Although quantum computing could break traditional encryption methods, current systems can still use symmetric algorithms like the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and hash functions like the Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA) and have been shown to be resistant to quantum attacks.

Keeping its customers and partners secure

More than 20 years ago Microsoft embarked on the road to quantum, with the company finding itself in a unique position, and taking a comprehensive approach to a quantum-safe future. 

Given the significant impact of quantum on today's encryption, Microsoft has dedicated its time and effort towards establishing cross-company goals and accountability at the highest levels. This resulted in the creation of the Microsoft Quantum Safe Program, which accelerates and advances quantum-safe initiatives throughout Microsoft, encompassing technical and business aspects. 

The program is centred on Microsoft's transition towards quantum safety and the adoption of post-quantum cryptographic (PQC) algorithms into its products, services, and data centres. Furthermore, its objective is to assist and empower customers and partners in their pursuit of quantum safety, while aligning with their processes, priorities, and needs.

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