With our world becoming more digitized every day, it is a question of time when quantum computing will be fully developed in our society, imposing threats and opportunities for the world. Although quantum computers may be revolutionary in industries such as medicine, it would also significantly endanger valuable information in the modern world by being able to break public-key cryptography. While China and the USA are heavily investing in the research for quantum computers, the EU is focusing on developing and establishing a quantum communication infrastructure (QCI), enabling data to be safe from quantum cyberattacks. Despite the ongoing race for quantum supremacy and the threat of increasing cyberattacks, the implementation of the QCI still needs to be developed considering the different capacities of Member States. Since digital information and especially data in financial and governmental institutions need to be protected, the EU must take action in preparing for the rise of quantum computers and ensure cybersecurity.
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Congratulation on choosing SEDE! You truly made the right topic choice because over these few days, you will be able to thoroughly discuss the benefits and threats of quantum technology. When tackling the possible dangers and preparing for the rise of quantum computers, think critically about the topic while taking multiple perspectives into account from considering the interests of financial institutions to competing internationally with global powers. Develop a vision for Europe and set priorities while finding a balance between securing data and investing into quantum research. Work together and enjoy the process, I know that you all will be brilliant. I wish you lots of success! -Anastasia
The Canadian Global Risk Institute estimated that there is a one in seven chance that some of the fundamental public-key cryptography tools will be broken by 2026 and a 50% chance by 2031. The reason for this threat is the potential rise of , offering threats and opportunities to our world. While quantum computing may revolutionize how scientists create medicines, it may endanger national security by allowing access to valuable data of nations and citizens. The current defense mechanisms in European digital institutions are protected by , a mechanism that is threatened to tremble with the rise of quantum computers. Data and information could only be protected with the implementation of , a technological concept that is still in development. Additionally, powerful nations such as the USA and China are investing into research, reaching for . How can the EU prepare for a rise of quantum computers while protecting data and avoiding digital warfare?
Launched in October 2018 as one of the largest EU research initiatives, the Quantum Technologies Flagship aims at supporting hundreds of quantum researchers over the next 10 years with an expected budget of EUR 1 billion from the European Union. The flagship assembles research institutions, enterprises and policy makers, demonstrating a significant step in developing quantum computers.
At the Digital Assembly 2019, seven Member States, among others Germany and the Netherlands, signed a declaration that agreed upon developing and deploying a quantum communication infrastructure (QCI) across the EU within the next ten years. This infrastructure would protect information and data by integrating the Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).
Following the EU Cybersecurity Act in 2019, ENISA became responsible for increasing operational cooperation at EU level. ENISA is responsible for helping Member States who would request to handle cybersecurity incidents and cyberattacks. In 2020, the European Commission presented a new EU Cybersecurity Strategy, aiming to strengthen Europe’s collective resilience against cyber threats. As quantum technology will further develop, the strategy will be adjusted in terms of the innovations.
Founded in 2014, QuTech is a collaboration between Delft University of Technology and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, aiming at developing scalable prototypes of quantum computers and a safe quantum internet.
Increase in cybercrime
The traditional public-key cryptography that is commonly used worldwide is threatened to tremble with the rise of quantum computers. Valuable data of nations and citizens is threatened to be exposed to third parties, increasing cyberattacks worldwide. Especially financial systems and governmental institutions are at threat of hackers accessing sensible information. Although the Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) seems to be the solution for protecting data against quantum computers, it is unlikely to be a universal answer because QKD requires an expensive infrastructure and operates over relatively short distances. Even though the EU has started an initiative for a quantum communication infrastructure, it has still a long way ahead until realising the scale of the project.
Technological opportunities of quantum computers
Quantum computers may have the potential to revolutionize computation by solving specific problems in a very short amount of time. Especially, these computers may solve problems in the area of optimisation, enabling improvements in military and finances. In medicine for example, machines can be learned to identify diseases much faster and more accurately, leading to better treatment of patients. A lot of industries would greatly benefit from the use of quantum computers, receiving a great advantage over competitors.
An ongoing armsrace
China and the USA are both seeking leadership in the quantum arms race, equally investing highly in the research of quantum technology. While Google claimed quantum supremacy in 2019, China’s researchers developed a quantum computer excelling Google’s prototype. In the race for quantum supremacy, the EU leads in some areas of quantum technology but it has not achieved quantum supremacy yet. A fully capable quantum computer has not been introduced in the world yet, letting the race continue. Hence, it is only a matter of time when one nation is the first one to claim ultimate quantum supremacy, having the power to threaten with cyberattacks worldwide and gaining advantages in technological opportunities in industries such as the military.
Even though the potential rise of quantum computers would enable many opportunities for the economy and industries, the breakthrough would demonstrate a significant threat to nations and its citizens. How can the EU promote the research in quantum computing while securing and protecting data? What should be the next steps in developing the European QCI? How can we prepare for the rise of Quantum Computing while staying competitive on the international level? Ask yourself these questions before tackling the topic. Think carefully and decide on the most suitable actions. The future of Europe lies in your hands.