Is the U.S Falling Behind When it Comes to Quantum Cryptography?
With the potential to completely transform national security, cybersecurity, and communications and network infrastructure, quantum technologies demand some serious attention.
Last year, in August, the U.S government invested $1 billion to develop advanced technologies, which include investments in the field of quantum information science. This is an important investment set to fund the development of five quantum centers that will make the U.S. a technology leader in the quantum space. Quantum science and engineering, superconducting quantum materials, quantum systems, and other applications are amongst the areas that the quantum centers are exploring.
Despite this investment, however, the U.S seems to be falling behind other developed countries, particularly China, in the so-called Quantum race.
The State of Quantum Computing and Global Investment in 2021
The potential of quantum technologies is nearly limitless compared to today’s global standard. With this in mind, it is no surprise that the worldwide investment in quantum technologies continues to grow exponentially.
Let’s take a look at the quantum efforts, in terms of investment, across the globe.
- China – $10b
- Germany – $3.1b
- United Kingdom – $1.3b
- US National Quantum Initiative – $1.2b
- European Quantum Technologies Flagship – $1.1b
- India – $1b
- Quantum Canada – $766m
- Russia – $663m
- Japan – $470m
- Israel – $360m
- Taiwan – $282m
- Netherlands – $177m
- Singapore – $109m
- Australia – $94m
- Korea – $37m
Some of the countries on this list have made serious investments. However, it is clear that the U.S is behind the pack if measured by investment alone.
A Post-Quantum vs. Quantum America
According to a document issued by the National Security Agency, the U.S seems to be overlooking quantum cryptography technologies, such as Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), in favor of post-quantum cryptography solutions.
By contrast, several competing countries are focused on pursuing QKD technology, and some are already deploying this technology and proving its security.
IDQuantique in Switzerland, Korea’s SK Telecom, and the Australian company QLabs are just a few.
Quantum cryptography using quantum key distribution utilizes the randomness of quantum physics to create a much better encryption standard. Since quantum physics is genuinely random, it can encrypt messages in ways that are unequivocally hack-proof.
Using QKD, communication between users relies on the encryption of a message using a unique key distributed amongst parties with authorized access. This key is generated remotely using Quantum Random Number Generators, offering a much more secure solution with long-term security applications. In addition, when an unauthorized party tries to access the encrypted information, the intrusion is immediately detected, and the connection is cut off.
While at the moment, QKD systems are limited by range and can only operate within a distance of about 100 kilometers, new innovations are constantly extending their reach. And soon, scalable architectures will make the practical implementation of QKD systems a reality.
QuantLR for example will soon be testing this technology from the International Space Station.
Post-quantum cryptography, on the other hand, uses classical cryptography to defend the attacks of a large quantum computer. And unlike true quantum cryptographic technologies, post-quantum cryptography comes without the expensive burden of needing specialized hardware to operate.
While post-quantum cryptography algorithms can stand up against known quantum computing attacks, it is unclear whether it will remain secure as supercomputers and quantum technologies develop.
And here lies the risk. What will happen when post-quantum crypto breaks?
For a long-term solution, the U.S should be paying more attention to quantum cryptography. The other countries that we mentioned know this and are preparing their network defenses accordingly.
The Bottom Line
Considering an estimated $22.5 billion global investment in quantum technology – it is safe to say that quantum is on the rise – and it’s rising fast. With the development of quantum technologies comes a myriad of opportunities and risks, and it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that its nation remains competitive and secure.
In 2018, the U.S government introduced the NQI (National Quantum Initiative Act) and allocated a five-year budget of over $1.2 billion. The initiative aims to allow federal government bodies to accelerate the growth of quantum technologies by collaborating with both private and academic institutions.
There’s no doubt that the talented researchers working in these institutions can develop practical applications of quantum technology and effective solutions to the current limitations that quantum cryptography faces.
Let’s not discount the importance of PQC. Post-quantum cryptography is an important role player, with a number of advantages and useful applications. However, many argue that quantum cryptography should be the primary focus. More resources dedicated to quantum solutions like QKD should be the way forward for any country that wishes to establish and maintain a lead in the race towards the quantum age.