China's quantum computing threat decades away

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China's quantum computing threat decades away

Quantum computing’s evolution from theoretical to practical brings potential threats from China, according to a paper by Booz Allen.

However, quantum computing’s benefits are still unlikely to be demonstrated for at least a decade, the paper says.

With quantum computers expected to outperform contemporary computers at quantum system modelling by the end of the decade, new data targets for Chinese economic espionage are moderately likely by the late 2020s.

However, as The Register notes in its report on the paper, "The firm offers that scenario in a recent report, Chinese Threats In The Quantum Era, that asserts the emerging superpower aspires to surpass US-derived quantum computing tech in the mid-2020s  but probably won’t get there. However, it "could plausibly lead in developing and deploying early quantum-computing use cases" by that timeframe."

The paper lists several anticipated quantum computing threats from China:

  • Theft of fundamental pharmaceutical, chemical and material science research
  • Theft of encrypted data
  • Adversarial development of quantum-assisted decryption sooner than encryption can be deployed
  • Unobservable deployment of quantum-assisted decryption
  • Strategic surprise as novel quantum cases shape unexpected threats

Although quantum computing is accelerating in development, quantum-assisted AI is still believed to be unlikely to shape threat activity in the next few decades.

“The prospect of achieving next-generation AI capabilities through the development of quantum-assisted AI is likely appealing to Chinese intelligence and security agencies determined to glean and exploit insights from large datasets,” the paper says.

“For now, however, quantum-assisted AI technology is largely theoretical. It will likely demand several decades of advancements in numerous fields to become demonstrably superior to classical AI outside of very small test problems.”

Booz Allen highlights key recommendations for strategic risk stakeholders, these being:

  1. Conduct threat modelling to assess changes to organisational risk
  2. Develop an organisational strategy for deploying post-quantum encryption
  3. Educate your people about quantum computing and maintain awareness of developments

“Changes in quantum computers will likely appear dramatically rather than as some smooth evolution  creating substantial exposure to strategic surprise as a major source of risk,” the paper says.

“By understanding quantum computing’s influence on adversary behaviour over the coming years, strategic organisational leaders can take informed steps now to improve their long-term security posture and limit strategic surprise from quantum computing’s likely sudden developments.”

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