Business in light of post-quantum computing – what can we do to prepare? A recent study may yield some best practices.

Quantum computing is on the minds of many and is impacting their current and future thinking. A new study reveals that 71% of global organizations see the emergence of quantum computers as a large threat to security. Most anticipate tangible quantum computer threats will begin arriving within three years.

The survey for DigiCert Inc, a provider of TLS/SSL, IoT and PKI solutions, was conducted by ReRez Research in August 2019 across 400 enterprise organizations in the USA, Germany and Japan from across critical infrastructure industries.

With the threat so clearly felt, 83% of respondents say it is important for IT to learn about quantum-safe security practices. Following are the top three worries reported for implementing post-quantum computing (PQC):

  • High costs to battle and mitigate quantum threats
  • Data stolen today is safe if encrypted, but quantum attacks will make this data vulnerable in the future
  • Encryption on devices and applications embedded in products will be susceptible

A substantial 95% of respondents reported they are discussing at least one tactic to prepare for quantum computing, but two in five see this is as a difficult challenge. The top challenges reported include cost, lack of staff knowledge, and worries that TLS vendors will not have upgraded certificates in time.

Said Tim Hollebeek, Industry and Standards Technical Strategist at DigiCert: “It is encouraging to see that so many companies understand the risk and challenges that quantum computing poses to enterprise encryption. With the excitement and potential of quantum technologies to impact our world, it is clear that security professionals are at least somewhat aware of the threats that quantum computers pose to encryption and security in the future.”

With so many engaged, but lacking good information about what to do and how to prepare, Hollebeek says now is the time for companies to invest in strategies and solutions that will help them get ahead of the game and not get caught with their data exposed when the threats emerge.

Preparing for PQC

The study shows that enterprises are beginning to prepare for quantum computing, with a third reporting they have a PQC budget and another 56% working on establishing a PQC budget. In terms of specific activities, not surprisingly, “monitoring” was the top tactic currently employed by IT. Next was understanding their organization’s level of crypto-agility. This reflects the understanding that when the time comes to make a switch to PQC certificates, enterprises need to be ready to make the switch quickly and efficiently.

Rounding out the top five current IT tactics were understanding the organization’s current level of risk, building knowledge about PQC and developing TLS best practices.

Report recommendations

In the study, the median prediction for when PQC would be required to combat the security threat posed by quantum computers was 2022, which means the time needed to prepare for quantum threats is nearer than some analysts have predicted. The DigiCert 2019 Post Quantum Crypto Survey points to three best practices for companies ready to start planning their strategies for securing their organizations for the quantum future:

  1. Know your risk and establish a quantum crypto maturity model.
  • Understand the importance of crypto-agility in your organization and establish it as a core practice.
  • Work with leading vendors to establish digital certificate best practices and ensure they are tracking PQC industry progress to help you stay ahead of the curve, including with their products and solutions. Change rarely happens quickly, so it is better not to wait, but to address your crypto-agility now.

More information from the study can be found here.