Mark Collins – Quantum Computing Coming: Canadian SIGINT Chief Warns of Threat to Encryption

Looks like Moore’s Law will be massively re-asserted:

Quantum computing will cripple encryption methods within decade, spy agency chief warns

The head of Canada’s electronic spy agency warned Friday [Sept. 23] the advent of super-fast quantum computers [see here] will cripple current encryption methods for securing sensitive government and personal information within a decade [on the other hand that surely will boost the decryption capabilities of SIGINT agencies].

In a rare public speech, Greta Bossenmaier [bio here], chief of the Communications Security Establishment [lots more here], said cryptologists at the CSE and around the world are racing to find new cryptographic standards before Y2Q – years to quantum – predicted for 2026.

She is the third senior CSE official this week to warn publicly of the threat quantum computing poses to widely used public key cryptography (PKC), protecting sensitive data transmissions from hackers, hacktivists, foreign state spies and other malicious actors.

The CSE is best known as a spy agency — it collects, decrypts and analyzes phone calls, faxes, emails, tweets, satellite and other electronic signals emanating from adversarial foreign nations and overseas threat actors [website here]. But it’s also mandated to protect government computer systems and networks, and the information they carry.

Already, federal computer systems are “probed” more than 100 million time a day by suspected malicious actors searching for vulnerabilities.

Now, “the challenge of protecting systems is about to get a lot harder thanks to quantum computing,” Bossenmaier told an Ottawa conference of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies [see “Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies: Cyber Symposium, Ottawa, Sept. 23“].

“Nearly every company, nearly every organization, nearly every government currently employs some form of encryption,” she said. “It’s also part of almost every Canadians’ daily life, whether we know it or not. Our credit cards, debit cards, work and building passes, just to name a few examples, all work on some form of encryption.

“It’s not really a question of if, it’s a question of when…

Read on. One thing interesting. At the symposium (I was there) the CSE chief spoke very favourably about Shared Services Canada, as the recently created agency provided one main point handling Canadian government email/IT services for CSE to deal with: a big help in ensuring their security. On verra. Shared Services has been the subject of much controversy of late.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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