Security of quantum technologies in IT

The processing power of traditional computers grows by the year. Transistor and microchip technology keeps evolving. Still, certain categories of mathematical problems remain far too complex for even the most powerful supercomputers to solve. The global community is researching technologies that can boost processing power and help to find more efficient ways of delivering sought-after solutions. Quantum computing is one of those evolving areas.

This analytical report is for information only. 

Prepared by a team of authors at Positive Technologies in a partnership with QApp, QBoard, and the Russian Quantum Center.

Key authors of this report:

  • E. D. Snegireva
  • G. D. Prokhorov 
  • A. K. Fedorov 
  • A. P. Guglya 
  • S. V. Grebnev 
  • A. S. Zelenetskiy

The processing power of traditional computers grows by the year. Transistor and microchip technology keeps evolving. Still, certain categories of mathematical problems remain far too complex for even the most powerful supercomputers to solve. The global community is researching technologies that can boost processing power and help to find more efficient ways of delivering sought-after solutions. Quantum computing is one of those evolving areas.

To the general public, the very term "quantum computing" seems something out of a sci-fi book and beyond the reach of the ordinary person. This perception largely has been influenced by pop culture, which often uses the word "quantum" inappropriately to explain the way imaginary technology works, plug plot holes, and bring up in esoteric and mystical contexts. Quantum physics, the scientific foundation of quantum technology, is indeed counterintuitive, even for professionals in the field. This is because phenomena at the heart of quantum physics cannot be explained with our day-to-day experiences. As scientists put it, you cannot understand quantum physics—you can only learn to accept it. Yet, predictions made with quantum physics mathematical equations are astoundingly accurate and form the basis for the physical theories that are the closest to reality. Insufficient understanding of the quantum world is no obstacle to applying its principles for advancing computing to a whole new level.

This analytical overview will attempt to make sense of today's quantum information technology, identify its current evolutionary stage, and answer the following questions: How can malicious actors use quantum computing to attack traditional systems? How do you defend against this sort of attacks? How secure is current quantum technology? How will the introduction of the new technology into familiar spheres of life change cybersecurity?

What is quantum technology?

The rapidly evolving areas in the field of quantum technology include the following:

  • Quantum computing. Computers and emulators, as well as cloud interfaces that provide access to quantum computers.
  • Quantum-resistant data protection. Quantum communications, with the most advanced area currently being quantum key distribution.
  • Quantum sensors. High-precision measurement devices whose operating principles rely on quantum effects.

Another area worth mentioning is post-quantum cryptography: this includes the design and programmatic implementation of algorithms, protocols, and end-user products resistant to attacks by threat actors armed with quantum computers. This area does not directly make use of quantum computing, but it appeared as a result of evolution in both quantum computing and traditional cryptography.

This research report looks at quantum computing, quantum communications, and post-quantum cryptography.

The basics

Quantum computing is based on the principles of quantum mechanics. It can be done with quantum computers or software emulators that algorithmically reproduce the behaviors of quantum computing system to a certain extent.

The unit of information in classical computing is the bit, which can take the values of 1 or 0. In physical terms, the bit represents one of two states of a transistor, which can be turned on (1) or off (0) at any particular time. It can also represent one of two states of a capacitor (charged or uncharged) or magnetic media element (magnetized or demagnetized). Quantum computing deals with the qubit, a more complex object than the bit. In physical terms, the qubit is typically a quantum particle, such as an atom, ion, or photon.

InfoThe qubit is a quantum bit, a counterpart to the classical bit, the computer unit of information. A quantum computer is a computing device that uses qubits.

The state of the physical bit is always defined: it either has a charge or no charge, and there is nothing in between. The qubit has two basis states, 0 and 1, and it also can be in a superposition: measuring the quantum particle results in it being found in a state of 1 or 0 with a certain probability. Let us consider a coin toss as an analogy. A classical computer can present the result of the toss (heads or tails) after the coin drops. A quantum computer presents the coin in each of its states simultaneously while it is still in the air.

Quantum entanglement is a quality that allows two or more qubits to become an interconnected system. As a result, if one qubit assumes a certain state, another qubit also assumes a certain state that corresponds to the connection established upon the initialization. It would seem that a pair-of-socks analogy works: if you have a pair of identical socks, pulling one of them on your right foot makes the other the left sock. However, this interconnection is not an instance of quantum entanglement for a number of reasons: in particular, socks are originally known to be of the right and left variety, and there is nothing surprising about the coincidence. Furthermore, there is a person who decides which states the socks should be given. Qubits have no hidden setting that gives the members of an entangled pair certain states in advance. 

What significant benefits do these properties afford? Quantum superposition combined with quantum entanglement produce an exponential increase in computing speed and considerable processing power for solving certain categories of problems, such as optimization with a large number of variables and modeling of complex physical or chemical processes. 

The computational capability of a quantum computer is determined by two key parameters: the number of qubits and the quality of operations on these (the admissible level of error when performing basic operations). Researchers are hard at work on error correction methods to achieve the highest possible computing accuracy. A quantum computing system, highly sensitive to external impacts, inevitably contacts the environment, which distorts results.

The quantum computer threat landscape

According to a Gartner study, around 40% of large companies will be supporting quantum computing initiatives and implementing quantum computing projects by 2025. Corporations are already joining efforts to pursue interdisciplinary research and adaptation projects. Thus, technology for quantum computing will become a valuable asset to organizations and an attractive target for malicious actors in the near future. Before this happens, it is important to understand what kind of cyberthreats companies will have to confront and how information security professionals can protect quantum computing systems.

Current quantum computers are categorized as belonging to the NISQ (noisy intermediate-scale quantum) era. These are devices with imperfect qubits; they are highly sensitive to environmental impacts and so cannot ensure a high computational accuracy. Quantum computers are most likely to be used as co-processors in hybrid systems in the near future. In systems like that, classical computers delegate some of their tasks to a quantum computer as part of a hybrid quantum-classical computing process. 

According to IQM and Atos analysts, supercomputing centers may be some of the first, and also largest, customers for quantum computers. IBM researchers share that outlook: in 2022, they published a concept for quantum-centric supercomputing, proposing the creation of quantum computing systems that can integrate with classical supercomputers until fully functional quantum computers emerge. Hybrid quantum-classical computing systems and data centers are being built. For example, Finnish developers at the VTT Technical Research Centre and Aalto University integrated Europe's most powerful supercomputer, LUMI, with the HELMI 5-qubit quantum processor, obtaining an extremely powerful hybrid supercomputer. Meanwhile in the Netherlands, Quix and QMware are in the process of creating a hybrid data center whose architecture integrates a photon quantum processing unit with a classical supercomputer. A hybrid data center is being built jointly by the German modular supercomputer developer ParTec and Israel-based Quantum Machines for similar purposes.

A concept for a hybrid quantum-classical computing environment
A concept for a hybrid quantum-classical computing environment

The process of using a quantum computer generally consists of the following steps:

1. Write an algorithm in a quantum programming language

Quantum programming languages are specialized languages designed for describing quantum algorithms using high-level constructs. These programming languages use syntax and semantics to express quantum calculations, much like classical programming languages enable developers to write software for regular computers. Alternatively, quantum programs may be written on the netlist level (using universal gates for qubit control) similarly to assembly code.

2. Compile a quantum algorithm into a quantum circuit

quantum circuit is a computational procedure presented as a circuit that defines a series of logical quantum operations on base qubits. Quantum circuit computation is a sequence of quantum gates and measurements, qubit initialization with known values, and other actions. 

3. Compute on a quantum processor

Quantum circuit computation outputs are qubit measurement results expressed in classical bits, so they can be sent to a classical computer for further processing. 

We expect that most attacks on quantum computers will occur due to classic computer vulnerabilities and then spread to the quantum-classical interface. Researchers also look into the quantum technology's own flaws that allow malicious actors to attack. For example, in one such paper¹ the authors call attention to the issues of security relating to quantum computing. Below, we look at cyberthreats that may appear on various architectural levels of a quantum computing system.

Physical-level threats

From an engineering standpoint, processing units can be built on various physical platforms, using, for example, superconducting qubits, neutral atoms, trapped ions, or photons. Numerous companies and research teams study qubit types, but no one's method of creating a fault-tolerant quantum computer has come out on top: each platform has its strengths and weaknesses. Devices powered by different processor types demonstrate similar levels of performance. We expect physical-level cyberthreats to appear because of qubit instability, gate errors, and the effects of crosstalk. A malicious actor can also use side channels to attack.

Qubit instability, gate errors, and qubit measurement errors

A key property of the qubit is its coherence time, or lifetime. This is the period during which the qubit's quantum state remains stable. For example, in superconducting qubits, coherence time depends on material quality, ambient temperature, and the presence of any magnetic fields. Qubits are fairly sensitive to external factors, which can cause errors that affect computational performance and reliability. Malicious actors can exploit heat sensitivity to launch denial-of-service attacks, or noise and interference sensitivity to attack operation integrity and cause output distortion. Quantum gates and measurements may be unstable too, potentially allowing the malicious actor to attack by introducing errors and manipulating interactions between qubits. The adversary can exploit qubit readout error to output another user's computation results by reading the qubit used in the victim's program.

Crosstalk in a multiuser environment

Crosstalk is unintended transmission of quantum information between two or more qubits. This becomes a serious issue in multiuser computing environments, where several quantum programs share the same set of hardware. This is a realistic situation, as vendors typically try to avoid idle time. By manipulating interactions between qubits, a malicious actor can launch an attack, disrupting execution of the victim's program, stealing data, and distorting computation results. 

Side-channel attacks

In a cloud environment, users typically have no direct control over the physical environment where the program is running. Meanwhile, malicious actors can use side channels to obtain information about algorithms being executed on the computers. Even though the superconducting qubits are isolated inside a cryogenic refrigerator, the malicious actor can attack the control unit electronics.

A superconducting quantum computing system uses microwave pulses to run gate operations on single qubits or qubit pairs. A malicious actor with physical access to the quantum computers can use electric power tracking to reverse-engineer the program and reconstruct the algorithm used.

It is worth noting that quantum computers' enormous processing power is another reason for protecting them from unauthorized access. Malicious actors can attempt to gain such access if, for example, they are looking to perform quantum computation of their own but lack the computing capacity to do so.

Circuit-level threats

A quantum circuit is a sequence of quantum gates and measurements. Circuits like these, designed to tackle a certain problem and optimized accordingly, can be viewed as intellectual property and as such become an attractive target for malicious actors. The key threats to a quantum circuit include compromise, as well as integrity violation due to the use of unreliable compilers.

Theft of confidential information

The designers of a parameterized quantum circuit build in an element topology that they are solving a certain problem for. For example, a quantum circuit intended for optimizing an energy system contains information about the number of nodes and the links between them. Therefore, by compromising the quantum circuit design and using reverse-engineering, a malicious actor can discover confidential information about the problem and the methods being used to solve it.

Use of unreliable compilers

Optimization (for example, to reduce the number of gates) is an important part of compiling a quantum circuit. Third-party compilers offer to achieve optimization with shorter compiling times. However, we expect malicious versions of trustworthy compilers to appear. Using these can lead to the quantum circuit being stolen, modified, or having malicious code embedded into it. Besides, this would allow the malicious actor to gain remote access to the quantum computing system's resources through infection.

Software- and application-level threats

Several specialized quantum programming languages have been developed to date. Examples include Q# by Microsoft, as well as qGCL, QMASM, Quantum Computation Language, Scaffold, and Silq. These languages are adapted to the unique principles of quantum mechanics like superposition and entanglement, and they help to define and run quantum circuits, operations, and algorithms. Another approach is extending the semantics of familiar high-level languages like C or Python with syntax indicating that certain cycles, variables, and arithmetic calculations should be executed in a newly created quantum environment. 

Libraries and frameworks for quantum algorithms are being developed. Developers are now able to use a variety of tools to write software for quantum computing systems, and work is underway on quantum operating systems. A consortium led by Britain's National Physical Laboratory and the quantum computing software company Riverlane has announced the release of the quantum operating system Deltaflow.OS with an open-source hardware abstraction layer.

A malicious actor would have the opportunity to implement a host of classical application-level attack, for example, by exploiting software vulnerabilities to embed malicious code, gain access to the device and its valuable computing resources, or compromise confidential information. A supply-chain attack is likely as well if a threat actor can introduce malicious modifications into operating system updates after successfully compromising the vendor. 

Certain quantum circuit solutions have been shown to have vulnerabilities. Two high-risk flaws, CVE-2023-36632 and CVE-2018-20225, have been discovered in NVIDIA's cuQuantum. Another high-risk vulnerability, CVE-2021-27082, has been detected in the Quantum Development Kit library for Visual Studio Code.

Quantum computing as a service: threats to cloud computing

QCaaS (quantum computing as a service) stands for quantum computing resources provided as an on-demand service. This is typically a cloud service that gives customers access to computing platforms over the Internet.

Companies use cloud computing to save money and boost operating performance: they can avoid upfront infrastructure costs and instead pay only for resources they use. Besides, quantum computers are technically complex systems that need special conditions to function. For example, superconducting qubit processors require low ambient temperatures. This drives up computing system costs, so cloud access to quantum computing devices will occupy significant market share in the near future. A 2021 study by The Quantum Daily predicts that the global quantum QCaaS market will reach $4 billion by 2025 and $26 billion by 2030.

Some companies, including industry giants like Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft, have launched cloud-based quantum computing services. Russia is represented on the market is well. The QBoard cloud platform enables industries to deliver research and business objectives with the help of quantum computing emulators and a library of quantum algorithms and software.

Data protection is a vital issue. Typical cyberthreats associated with cloud access include cloud service misconfiguration and vulnerabilities, insecure data storage and processing on the vendor side, and denial-of-service attacks. Likewise, these pose a threat to QCaaS infrastructures. Furthermore, low quality of hardware may affect the security and results of quantum computing.

Access to cloud-based services is associated with both high costs and lengthy wait times. The future might see specialized aggregation platforms that provide access to hardware by a variety of vendors. In 2022, China's Baidu presented Liang Xi, a solution that offers access to quantum processors including other vendors' devices, via a mobile app, a desktop program, and a cloud interface.

Researchers believe that growing demand from companies and regular users will encourage the emergence of vendors offering cloud-based quantum computing services. The trend might see unreliable vendors appearing, promising early access to newest technology on favorable terms. However, the negligent manner in which these declared services would be delivered might result in confidential data, including source code and quantum circuits, being stolen. In addition to this, computation results would likely be distorted by unreliable hardware.

Attacks on quantum neural networks

A multitude of companies are adopting machine learning, and a product rarely goes without an intelligent decision system these days. Quantum neural networks are emerging. These are variational quantum circuits with parameters defined during training on a data set. These neural networks successfully handle object recognition, natural language processing, and financial analysis. IonQ and Hyundai Motor use quantum machine learning for object recognition and efficient road sign classification.

Security of quantum machine learning systems remains a focus area for ongoing research and development projects. Changes in quantum noise are known to affect the training process and the reliability of the quantum classifier. The authors of a recent study² demonstrated an attack in which the adversary caused an increase in errors by introducing noise in the victim's quantum classifier through crosstalk inside a multiuser environment. Besides, a malicious actor can embed a backdoor during training and then upload the resulting neural network to a public repository, where it can be downloaded by users who will become the next victims. A neural network like that changes its behavior to malicious when receiving an input that contains a trigger. A group of researchers from Indiana University Bloomington proposed in their article³ a scenario of such a stealthy backdoor attack, which they named QDoor. Another article⁴ models a supply-chain attack and looks into neural and quantum neural networks' resilience against attacks that use malicious data sets. The results suggest that both models are vulnerable to intrusion.

Quantum communications

Quantum communications is a field of knowledge and technology relating to the transmission of quantum states in space. Quantum communications are separated into two main avenues. In one of these, researchers have set out to create secure communication links that rely on quantum key distribution (QKD), a method of key delivery that guarantees protection against unauthorized access. The other aims to build secure information systems that use quantum keys. 

Related technology based on or using quantum-secure solutions and optical quantum effects is also considered to be part of the field of quantum communications. It comprises optoelectronic hardware components, trusted systems for data transmission, positioning, navigation, control and monitoring, including quantum random number generators.

Quantum key distribution

Quantum networks are used for QKD. Symmetric cryptography, common in the world today, uses the same encryption key to encrypt and decrypt messages⁵. In asymmetric cryptography, which exists along symmetric cryptography, the sender and the recipient have a pair of mathematically related keys: public and private. It's very hard to derive the private key from the public key. The public key is used to encrypt data, and the private key, to decrypt it. This helps to avoid the distribution of secret keys, a step that presents a confidentiality challenge. That said, asymmetric cryptography is computationally intensive and uses a large key size, so it is not suited to sending long messages. One of the most popular applications of asymmetric cryptography is digital signatures, where a secret key is used for signing a document, and a public key is used for verification. 

A combination of asymmetric and symmetric cryptography is common, where the former is used for sharing the secret key, and the latter for securing the transmitted data throughout the communication session. Let's take user-generated Internet traffic as an example. Virtually all of that traffic is secured with the TLS protocol, implemented with the help of symmetric encryption algorithms, such as AES, and asymmetric ones, such as the Diffie-Hellman key exchange algorithm. However, ubiquitous asymmetric encryption algorithms are vulnerable to attacks that employ quantum computers. Shor's quantum algorithm can be used to break ciphers that rely on the difficulty of factoring large numbers, such as RSA, or the difficulty of computing a discrete logarithm in a finite Abelian group, such as Diffie-Hellman. Thus, malicious actors gaining access to quantum computing would make it risky to use classical asymmetric cryptography that relies on the difficulty of solving the above-mentioned mathematical problems. However, you can use symmetric cryptography if you have a communication link that can be used to send a key securely with the help of the laws of quantum physics. Quantum key distribution relies on quantum-physical phenomena to generate a cryptographic key with legitimate remote users by sending photons across fiber-optic links or free space, or otherwise. This leaves no opportunity for a malicious actor to eavesdrop on the key undetected or forge it. The security of the key is guaranteed by fundamental laws of physics, while the encryption relies on classical algorithms.

When attacking a quantum network, the adversary exploits flaws in the optical and hardware components, and vulnerabilities in communication protocols. This often requires being connected to the fiber-optic link used for sending photons. There are two types of attacks on QKD: targeting the quantum communication link directly and targeting the sender's and recipient's hardware.

Examples of attacks aimed at the hardware vulnerabilities of QKD systems include photon number splitting attacks and detector blinding attacks. In a photon number splitting attack, if the pulse sent from the sender to the recipient contains only one photon, the malicious actor blocks that. If there are several photons, the adversary leaves one of them in their quantum memory, forwarding the rest to the recipient. By listening to the parties announce the encoding bases over the classical channel, the adversary obtains all the information they need for measuring the photons in the correct basis to find out the key. Securing against this type of attack involves the use of decoy states, where the intensity of quantum signals is varied in the QKD protocol. In a detector blinding attack, the avalanche detector is continuously illuminated with light of certain intensity. This causes the detector to open and the detector voltage to drop. If the voltage shift is large enough, the detector becomes blinded. The attack aims to disable computation on the recipient's end: this is possible if states that are intercepted and resent have an incorrect basis. If the adversary can correctly guess the basis, they forward the message to the recipient, and if not, they blind their detector. As a result, the intercepting party finds out the secret key. 

Researchers are working on quantum communication security. Thus in 2022, members of the Russian Quantum Center team together with scientists from China and Thailand demonstrated that you can defend against detector blinding attacks by introducing a fiber-optic circulator in the communication link⁶. 

Another category is attacks on pseudorandom generators. If the sender is using a pseudorandom number generator—typically for building bit sequences that may become a key in the future—one can compute the next number if they know the previous number and the internal algorithm parameters. This is prevented by using quantum random number generators capable of producing truly random numbers.

We also shouldn't forget the authentication vulnerabilities of classical channels used in quantum key distribution. Authentication in these requires a digital signature using encryption algorithms that are immune to the quantum threat. Individual protocols, essentially improved versions of vulnerable ones, such as the decoy-state BB84 protocol, as well as specialized software and hardware solutions, exist to protect against QKD attacks.

In 2023, a multinational research team including employees of the Russian Quantum Center and the QRate company presented a detailed analysis of a Russian-made commercial quantum key distribution system. The system was demonstrated to be protected against known hardware threats and other vulnerabilities.

Large-scale quantum networks (a quantum Internet)

Let us recall what quantum entanglement is: when one qubit in an interconnected pair assumes a certain state, the other cubit assumes a state that corresponds to the connection. Interestingly enough, qubits do not need to be in close proximity to demonstrate that property. The maximum distance at which quantum entanglement has been demonstrated is 33 kilometers

At the heart of the quantum Internet technology is the possibility to send quantum states across long-distance telecommunication links. Quantum Internet initiatives are being adopted by individual countries, academia, and commercial R&D departments. Britain is planning to deploy a next-generation quantum network by 2035, inaugurating the quantum Internet of the future. Meanwhile, Amazon and Harvard have entered into a technological alliance to advance fundamental research and innovation in the field of quantum networks and building a quantum Internet

No design for a quantum Internet implementation exists yet, but the idea is as follows: it would be a network of fiber-optic links connected with quantum repeaters that function like classical network channels with switches or routers. Terminal nodes that connect to the quantum network act as clients and servers. A separate variety of network nodes would be used for measuring qubits. For example, a node like that can serve as a recipient in quantum key distribution. Another type of node has been designed to generate and connect entangled pairs. As with the classical Internet, individual, independently controlled quantum networks will eventually combine to form a quantum Internet.

The goals of attacks in a quantum Internet environment are similar to those of attacks on classical networks: stealing data, disrupting the integrity or availability of quantum nodes or networks, or capturing quantum communication links or computing resources. Let us consider some of the attacks that a malicious actor can implement.

1. False failure report

Used for degrading network performance and availability. Requires control over a qubit measurement node. The malicious actor generates a false message that a BQC⁷ application has stopped working. The network runs a thorough scan of the nodes and passes a verdict on whether the application has indeed crashed.

2. Quantum denial-of-service (QDoS) attack

Requires control over a qubit measurement node or terminal node. The idea is the same as with classical networks, but different techniques are used. To knock a QKD system out of service, the malicious actor can generate a key that exceeds the maximum channel throughput. Another method is creating a resource-intensive quantum computing task that knocks out the system. If the malicious actor has physical access to a terminal node, they can generate a new entangled pair, which will compromise the integrity of the existing connection and cause a denial of service.

3. Malicious application

Requires control over a terminal node. The adversary can run a malicious application on the quantum computer.

4. Dishonest quantum computation

Requires control over a terminal node. A terminal node that belongs to a malicious actor can take over some of the quantum computing workload. The node returns invalid information, thus compromising data integrity.

5. Link attack

Requires control over a quantum repeater. Malicious actors who assume control over a node of this type can, at a minimum, manipulate the state of the connection between two related nodes: for example, to report a false connection state, which would terminate the connection. Traffic would be routed around the node, which would lead to inefficient use of network resources. 

6. Man-in-the-middle attack

Requires control over a quantum repeater. This is essentially the same type of attack as the one that targets classical networks. A quantum repeater node captured by the adversary introduces itself as the other party to each of two parties in a connection, so the victims believe that they are talking directly, without the adversary's mediation.

Post-quantum cryptography: how to protect against an adversary armed with a quantum computer

A quantum computer can efficiently solve problems that common encryption algorithms rely on for cryptographic strength. This makes the continued use of most current encryption schemes objectionable. As an example, the aforementioned Shor's quantum algorithm can be used to break ciphers such as RSA that rely on the difficulty of factoring large numbers.

Despite its name, post-quantum cryptography does not directly relate to quantum technology. However, it owes its existence to the quantum evolution and to the hypothesis about the quantum threat to today's encryption systems. 

Post-quantum cryptography solutions rely on new standards for asymmetric cryptography and electronic signature algorithms. These help to protect data from attacks that use both classical and quantum computers. To achieve quantum resistance for asymmetric encryption schemes, post-quantum cryptography taps other computationally complex problems for which no efficient classical or quantum algorithms are known. These problems include lattice theory, error-correcting code theory, multivariate polynomial systems, cryptographic hash functions, and others.

According to assessments by the Cloud Security Alliance, a quantum computer will be able to hack the current infrastructure as early as in 2030. The Alliance has added a countdown to the post-quantum age to its website. However, threat actors can start attacking systems vulnerable to the quantum threat even today as exemplified by "harvest now, decrypt later" attacks. Malicious actors can now save data encrypted with traditional methods, pending a time when they get access to a quantum computer to successfully decrypt it. Valuable confidential information whose life cycle exceeds the time to the availability of quantum computers will thus be threatened. 

According to a Deloitte poll published in 2022, half (50.2%) of surveyed professionals believe that their organizations are exposed to the risk of "harvest now, decrypt later" cyberattacks. This has led to certain companies already introducing new encryption methods. Google, for one, is now using post-quantum cryptography to protect its internal systems. Post-quantum cryptography pilot projects are successfully implemented in Russia as well.

It is worth mentioning that the use of post-quantum encryption algorithms does not mean absolute security: the number of entries in the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) grows by the year. In late 2023, researchers discovered vulnerabilities in a post-quantum encryption method. Multiple implementations of the Kyber key encapsulation mechanism proved to have a number of vulnerabilities known as KyberSlash. Problematic pieces of code allow a malicious actor to reconstruct secret keys.

In what tasks can quantum technology be effectively used?

As mentioned above, quantum computing, quantum communication, and quantum sensing technologies are rapidly evolving. The primary application where the new technologies will be beneficial is extensive computation tasks, as well as fields that require accurate measurements and more efficient and secure data transmission and storage methods.

Quantum computing

By far not every problem will allow quantum computing to display its superior efficiency and quantum supremacy.

InfoQuantum supremacy is the ability of a quantum computer to solve a problem that exceeds the capabilities of modern supercomputers.

Quantum computing is superior to classical computing, and not just because of the sheer processing speed: the volumes of data that can be handled by the new types of processing units are significantly greater as well. A quantum computer does not operate on finite states, such as 0 and 1, but rather on the probability of these states appearing; this helps process possible parameter states and do so, in a sense, in parallel. 

A quantum computing device can be used to solve combinatorial problems, systems of differential or linear equations, factorization and logarithmic problems. Thus, quantum computers will be helpful in modeling and optimization of both individual processes and entire systems.

Quantum communications and post-quantum cryptography

The key purpose of these two fields is stronger data protection during transmission and storage. This is achieved through a quantum key distribution system and post-quantum encryption algorithms. Quantum communications can also be used for instant transmission of key information with the help of quantum entanglement. 

As an example, quantum key distribution systems are employed when providing the following services:

1. Generating keys with quantum generators of random numbers. A random key generated with the help of QKD will be provided as a service for the customer who will use it in their cryptographic data protection tools. The U.S. company Quantum Xchange already offers monthly subscriptions to an unlimited key package when connecting to QKD systems.

2. Access to a quantum-safe VPN. Here, QKD systems are used to ensure the security of a virtual network. Access to the VPN is offered as a service. Telecommunication companies like Verizon and British Telecom are already making plans to boost the quantum resistance of VPN encryption through QKD-based solutions.

3. Protecting the parties in critical communication links. This service is used by operators that manage critical information infrastructure. 

4. Mobile communications security. Samsung phones, for example, use quantum random number generators. 

Whereas quantum cryptography implements security through QKD hardware, post-quantum cryptography achieves data security by using new mathematical approaches. Post-quantum cryptography will be used in many information systems and applications including the IoT and autonomous vehicle infrastructure, replacing familiar asymmetric encryption algorithms. Note that post-quantum cryptography solutions can be combined with quantum communication technologies, and Russia already has obtained pilot project results in that area.

Applications per economic sector

Quantum technology is turning from just scientific research into practical tools influencing economic development. According to the data in a 2023 report by McKinsey & Company, the yearly investment in quantum technology has reached its highest level ever. The analysts listed automotive, chemical, finance, medicine, and biology sectors as ones to derive economic effect from quantum computing. 

Meanwhile, experts believe that in Russia, introduction of quantum technology will produce the greatest economic effect in the processing industries, logistics, mining, real estate and construction, energy, finance, medicine, and genetics. 


Industry is a very broad economic sphere. It comprises energy, mechanical engineering, mining, chemical, and many other sectors. The range of problems that quantum technology solves is similarly broad. A number of industrial companies are already working with quantum research centers. IBM and the German electric utility E.ON seek to encourage the transformation of the energy sector through quantum computing. Researchers at Cambridge Quantum and Nippon Steel are using quantum algorithms in the steel industry to model iron crystals. Toyota Motor and QunaSys are using quantum computing for research into new materials and increased performance of electric vehicle batteries. 

In early 2022, the Russian Quantum Center teamed up with Nissan to launch a project in molecular property modeling with quantum computing. Russia's Rosatom is searching for ways to test and use quantum technology in the country's energy sector. In 2023, Airbus, BMW Group, and Quantinuum published the results of their research into modeling of chemical reactions in hydrogen fuel cells to develop higher-performing materials. Airbus is in the process of researching a number of quantum technologies that can be used to solve aerospace problems. 

Besides individual companies, large government institutions have been turning their attention to the new technology. The U.S. Department of Energy is a partner in the National Quantum Initiative, having launched a series of interdisciplinary research programs.


Quantum technology makes it possible to consider a multitude of variables that interact in complex ways. In the field of healthcare, quantum technology opens up potential for better treatment through comprehensive analysis of medical histories, discovery of drugs, and the evolution of medicine and diagnostics in general. Boehringer Ingelheim is collaborating with Google on research and development projects in the field of pharmaceuticals. Case Western Reserve University is using Microsoft quantum algorithms to boost the diagnostic capabilities of magnetic resonance imaging. QC Ware worked with Roche Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED) on using a quantum neural network in retinal imaging for early detection and diagnostics of diabetic retinopathy. CrownBio and JSR Life Sciences have partnered with Cambridge Quantum Computing to use quantum machine learning for discovering and researching biomarkers that will help cancer treatment. Russia's QBoard, in a partnership with Genotek, has completed a science and technology project on genome assembly with the help of quantum computing. For Future Technologies Forum 2024, Roscongress Foundation and Russian quantum industry experts published an analytical report titled "Quantum technology for healthcare: new computing, data protection, and sensorics approaches".

Transportation and logistics

Quantum computing will have a significant effect on the transportation sector—particularly in solving logistic problems. The IBM Research and ExxonMobil Corporate Strategy Research teams have collaborated on modeling ocean freight routing with the help of quantum devices to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of ship and cargo routing strategies. At the same time, Groovenauts and Mitsubishi Estate use the D-Wave quantum technology to optimize waste management and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Elsewhere, D-Wave partnered with Volkswagen to use a quantum computer for optimizing taxi routes in Beijing. The team used data on the movements of 418 taxicabs in one of the world's busiest cities to optimize traffic flows between the center of the megalopolis and the Beijing airport. While collaborating with the Port of Los Angeles, the quantum software developer SavantX used quantum computing to optimize container placement for better coordination with truck and freight train arrivals. 


Financial institutions are technologically advanced by nature. The sector often adopts new technology to boost profits, reduce costs, and increase performance. The McKinsey & Company report predicts that quantum computing may deliver around $700 billion in benefit to the financial services industry by 2035. The sector looks to solve problems relating to financial risk assessments, optimal investment calculations, credit scoring, retail optimization, and financial services performance. For example, CaixaBank has used quantum computing for investment portfolio hedging in the insurance sector. Terra Quantum and HSBC have announced their intention to cooperate in researching quantum technology to solve collateral optimization problems: efficient distribution and management of collateral assets to meet regulatory requirements while minimizing costs. 

Besides quantum computing, the financial sector is implementing quantum communications, as well as solutions based on quantum and post-quantum cryptography. China has successfully connected dozens of bank offices and data centers to a quantum network. A number of Russian companies also can boast successful cases relating to pilot implementation of the new technology, in particular post-quantum encryption algorithms. In 2022, the team at QApp, in a partnership with Gazprombank, successfully implemented an integration pilot that focused on quantum-resistant security of the bank's host-to-host connections. As part of a pilot project, QApp implemented post-quantum encryption for the electronic document flow management system at Russia's National Payment Card System, protecting transaction reports and other data against the quantum threat.


Quantum technology will have an enormous effect on the telecommunication industry, as the protection of telecommunication data and networks in the quantum age calls for new security algorithms and protocols. Telecommunication systems contain confidential data on subscribers, payment details, and information about devices, network equipment and emergency response. Without due preparation, companies may find themselves vulnerable to current and future risks, such as "harvest now, decrypt later" attacks. 

China is the leader in quantum communications. The country already has a commercial quantum fiber-optic network that links together Beijing and Shanghai, with 150 connected organizations ranging from national and local banks to electricity networks and government websites. In 2023,China Telecommunications Corporation invested 3 billion yuan ($434 million) in a subsidiary to promote quantum communication technology. China Telecom has contributed to the adoption of five national standards and helped to build quantum cable networks and a 5G mobile network with quantum encryption, which currently has more than 500,000 subscribers.

Other countries have been adopting quantum technology too. The United States has a commercial quantum fiber-optic network that links together Boston, New York, and Washington. South Korea is planning to build a 2,000-kilometer quantum network with SK Telecom and ID Quantique by 2025. As for Russia, the country's first quantum communication link became operational in 2021. It connects Moscow with St. Petersburg, and at 700 kilometers, it is the largest in Europe. The construction and expansion of quantum key distribution networks in Russia is part of a roadmap being implemented by Russian Railways.

Unlike organizations in other industries, telecommunication companies are making important strides in the field of standardization. The GSMA Post-Quantum Telco Network task force is a consortium of more than 50 organizations and more than 20 carriers established by IBM and Vodafone to prepare for the quantum era. September 2023 saw the publication of the Guidelines for Quantum Risk Management for Telco.

National initiatives


Over the past few years, technologically advanced countries have adopted long-term quantum technology programs. Some of these, including Ireland, Spain, Romania, Slovakia, and Sweden, have strategies at various stages of development that are yet to be adopted. 

Each nation has its own vision, which they build their strategies on. The UK aims to create a quantum economy, whereas China and the U.S. seek to secure leadership in the quantum industry. Germany has set out to create a commercially viable quantum computer and quantum sensors, and it is also expanding its network of application development companies. Japan's initiative aims to introduce quantum technology into every social and economic system to ensure sustainable development of the society. 

The significance of the new technology is recognized at the national level. China, a global leader in the field, intends to expand its national quantum communications infrastructure, create a quantum computer prototype, and build a quantum simulator, all by 2030. The U.S. has signed the National Quantum Initiative Act into law. The UK government has identified the development of quantum technology as a top priority for the next decade, describing this in its National Quantum Strategy. The Netherlands has published its National Agenda for Quantum Technology. Canada has also announced that it has launched a quantum strategy. The Australian government has adopted a national strategy as well: the action plan includes supporting research and education initiatives, standardization, and a national quantum ecosystem. The Government of India has adopted the country's National Quantum Mission, while the Government of Japan has launched its Q-LEAP initiative to invest in quantum technology projects. 

Each of the nations has supported their strategy with budgets to develop infrastructure and capabilities. The US National Quantum Initiative Act was signed into law in 2018 with $1.275 billion in approved funding. The UK government plans to invest £2.5 billion in the development of quantum computing: supporting the establishment of research centers and acceleration programs, and funding targeted innovations, training and talent programs, and joint research programs. Germany has allocated €650 million for its quantum technology program. South Korea plans to invest $2.33 billion in quantum technology by 2035. The Danish government plans to invest 1 billion kroner ($93.6 million) in quantum technology. The program will support applied development projects as well as fundamental research and educational programs. The Japanese government has announced that it will allocate 4.2 billion yen ($31.7 million) in 2023 to further expand the national cloud quantum service and connect it to IBM's 127-qubit quantum computer. The Brazilian government has decided to allocate $11 million for the construction of the nation's first quantum center. Australia has invested A$130 million in quantum technology. It will invest a further A$101.2 million over the next five years, as announced in the 2023 budget.

Some of the countries have demonstrated practical results. Singapore's quantum engineering program will begin nationwide testing of quantum-safe communications technology to ensure network security for critical infrastructure and companies handling sensitive data. China has launched a quantum cloud platform that helps researchers to run complex computing tasks in the cloud, and the general public to try quantum computing. Japan has opened cloud-based access to its first 64-qubit quantum computer to all members of the Japanese industrial alliance Q-STAR, which includes Mitsubishi Chemical, Sony Group, Toyota Motor, and other large companies.

It is too early to say whether any particular strategy will be successful. At the beginning of the year, the World Economic Forum released a report in which analysts examined the key elements of current national quantum strategies and offered detailed recommendations for the nations on creating their own quantum ecosystems. Researchers are confident that no approach is suitable for everyone. However, lessons can be learned from different approaches to create a quantum initiative that suits a particular nation.


The foundations for the development of quantum communications are laid in the quantum communications roadmap for the period until 2030. Besides, the Government of the Russian Federation has prepared a regulatory strategy for quantum communications, which emphasizes the need to create a legal mechanism to control the use of quantum communications on existing communication networks and the creation of new quantum communication networks. 

To adopt quantum computing, the government approved a quantum computing roadmap in 2020, currently implemented and coordinated by Rosatom. The roadmap saw the establishment of the National Quantum Laboratory: a research and technology consortium comprised of key members of the Russian quantum community. Serving as the foundation for the nations' quantum ecosystem, it consolidates efforts by universities, research centers, development teams, startups, technology companies, and financial organizations. By 2023, Russia had successfully developed quantum computer prototypes based on physical platforms: a 16-qubit qudit trapped-ion quantum processor (by the Lebedev Physical Institute), an 8-qubit superconducting quantum simulator demo circuit (by Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology), an experimental 4-qubit photonic chip quantum computer, and an experimental 16-qubit neutral atom quantum computer (both by Moscow State University). 

The development of the new technology is supported by the government. Quantum technology is becoming a recurring theme in the new national project, Data Economy.


It is too early to discuss standardization, seeing how the nations are still racing to be leaders in quantum computing. However, efforts are already underway in the field of quantum-safe data protection.

In 2023, ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, released its first standard that described security requirements for quantum key distribution systems, as well as testing and evaluation methods. The document contains a description of functional requirements for QKD devices, their network and optical components, and provides protocol implementation rules and recommendations for cryptographic module testing methodology. In addition, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute together with the International Telecommunication Union are planning to create a system of security standards for QKD, QKD satellite networks, and quantum network intermediate nodes by the end of 2024. 

After the quantum threat became public knowledge, researchers began work on post-quantum cryptography, as well as standardization. A report on post-quantum cryptography released by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology demonstrated that the first-ever effective attacks on traditional encryption algorithms could occur as early as 2030. In 2022, the Institute selected four algorithms designed to withstand attacks from quantum computers. Draft standards for three of these were published as early as 2023. In addition, several U.S. federal agencies (CISA, NSA and NIST) have released a post-quantum cryptography migration plan. It reflects advice on the transition, creation of a required infrastructure, and requirements for algorithm developers. The plan recommends that critical information infrastructure organizations be the first to begin preparations.

Russia is working on standardization too. Rosstandart Technical Committee 26's Post-Quantum Cryptographic Mechanisms working group, established in 2019, is developing next-generation post-quantum cryptographic algorithms, intended to complement the GOST R 34 standards. December 2022 saw the establishment of the National Technology Center for Digital Cryptography as proposed by the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media. The Center, together with the Academy of Cryptography of the Russian Federation, is planning to hold a competition to evaluate the cryptographic properties of post-quantum algorithms submitted for standardization to TC 26 working subgroups. Meanwhile, the Center has begun research work. Candidates for inclusion under state standards are the Shipovnik and Hypericum electronic signature algorithms. It is worth noting that both are open-source solutions.

Russia is taking steps towards adopting rules for issuing quantum communications certificates. In the second half of 2023, researchers at the Russian Quantum Center and the QRate company prepared a detailed description of the steps involved in preparing a quantum key distribution system for state certification.

Conclusions and forecasts

The global quantum computing market is expected to grow at a CAGR of approximately 33.20% from 2023 through 2035. The cloud segment will occupy a significant market share as cloud computing plays a crucial role in enabling digital transformation of organizations, and vendors provide scalable, flexible, and cost-effective solutions. Meanwhile, organizations have been introducing post-quantum encryption into their systems. Research is underway on post-quantum algorithms and their synergy with quantum communications.

The nations have taken dissimilar approaches to developing quantum technology: some have coordinated national programs under long-term strategies, while others lack such programs but provide significant government funding and pursue individual research projects in technology development areas.

As for the talent market, quantum technology professional training and researcher support are becoming an established trend. McKinsey & Company analysts, in their overview, mention a shortage of talent for the jobs related to quantum technology, with roughly every other position remaining vacant in 2022. Additionally, the number of universities that offer master's degrees in quantum technology almost doubled in 2022, from 29 to 50, according to the report. 

Many governments have grown serious about training talent that can enable the sustainable development of the industry. In 2020, the U.S. White House released the Quantum Frontiers Report, which mentions training of quantum engineers as an urgent challenge facing the state. In 2021, China announced quantum information science as a new bachelor's major in general-education colleges and universities, and the University of Science and Technology of China was allowed to award doctoral degrees in quantum science and technology. A number of universities in Russia are now running specialized training and further training programs. 

Meanwhile, as the world aspires to make smart cities a reality, the introduction of information and communication technology into familiar areas of life has taken center stage. China's most advanced quantum communication network extends throughout the city of Hefei, connecting elements of urban infrastructure. The UK's national initiative aims to integrate quantum products and services into other industries: in particular, by 2030 the country plans to start using quantum diagnostic devices in medical institutions, and quantum navigation systems in the aviation sector.

The ability of quantum systems to solve computationally complex optimization problems and support secure communications between urban systems and infrastructure facilities is driving interest in the technology at government level. There is also interest in Russia, with Moscow becoming the hub for testing next-generation technology. The capital city's government is considering conducting quantum computing, quantum communications, and post-quantum cryptography pilots in the pharmaceutical and medical sectors, aircraft and rocket engineering, the energy sector, and the information technology, microelectronics, and automotive industries. To support specialized research and future development projects, there are plans to establish a Moscow quantum cluster in the Skolkovo innovation center this year.


Quantum computing is a new paradigm that combines qubit technology, hardware architecture, a software stack, algorithms, supply chains, and usage models, all still evolving. All of these can significantly affect both the evolution of existing and the creation of fundamentally new security systems.

Monitoring of quantum systems

Unlike with classical computers, there is no way to monitor the computation process inside a quantum processing unit: qubits are measured only once, at the end of computation. This makes it difficult to evaluate algorithms running on quantum computers at any given moment or detect any outside interference with the algorithm.

Back in 2005, researchers took on the task of modeling quantum malware at the machine language level. Research into approaches to preventing the use of quantum computers for malicious purposes is still underway. One of these is to make available only those software modules whose algorithms are well understood and have undergone security analysis. Another option is to create access categories, where users only have access to blocks of certain algorithms, depending on the level of trust.

A key future research area is the search for monitoring possibilities for quantum systems and development of appropriate capabilities. Work in that area is underway. Researchers at the Russian Quantum Center and the National University of Science and Technology (NUST MISIS) have proposed an algorithm that allows continuously evaluating the behavior of a quantum processor's basic elements by analyzing information obtained after launching users' quantum circuits. Research like this may also affect the development of fully functional monitoring systems. One possible future scenario is that low-level security tools for monitoring quantum computing will also need to have a quantum nature. This would be possible if certain indicator qubits in the target system and qubits in the security tool were entangled so that, in the event of an attack on the target computer, the security tool would be able to detect the interference and alert the user. 

Secure code review

A study⁸ published in 2023 proposed a new paradigm for analyzing and finding errors in quantum circuits. The authors are developing a platform for checking and finding errors. Another study⁹ brings up the creation of a quantum antivirus to scan quantum computer software for potentially malicious code patterns and quantum circuit fragments. The concept resembles a syntax parser in a classic antivirus.

Bug bounty programs

Another promising area is bug bounty programs that encourage ethical hackers to search for vulnerabilities in quantum systems. In 2023, the Indian government's Centre for Development of Telematics announced the launch of the country's first network with quantum key distribution. To test the reliability of the system, India's communications minister announced a bug bounty challenge, where the participants were asked to find vulnerabilities in the quantum network for 1 million rupees per successful hack. We expect the number of bug bounty programs to grow as more organizations introduce the new technology in their business processes.

Intellectual property protection

One of the cybersecurity challenges will be to protect the results of quantum computing. These are expected to hold much more value than the results of most classical computer computations. For example, a pharmaceutical company that uses a quantum computer to solve a complex chemical problem will find the result of data processing by a quantum system to be highly valuable, as it may be difficult to reproduce. The final product in this case will constitute intellectual property. Researchers propose obfuscation techniques to hide the true functionality of a circuit, such as adding dummy gates. 

Impact on threat actors' attack methods

We expect that the evolution of cloud services in the field of quantum technologies will encourage attackers to search for vulnerabilities in vendor products, and to attack providers of quantum cloud computing services. Besides, the malicious actors themselves are likely to adopt new algorithms: in the future, attackers may use post-quantum encryption to prevent data recovery with quantum computers.

Cybersecurity impact: secure data transmission and efficient threat detection

Quantum communications introduce the concept of quantum key distribution with its promise of better secured data links. This is no doubt a major step forward in terms of future cybersecurity. Big data analysis to detect patterns or anomalies in systems that point to an ongoing attack is an area where quantum computing may be especially helpful. Researchers say this will help to detect threats and respond in real time more efficiently, opening up commercial prospects for an entirely different standard of security systems.


Quantum technology is progressing fast and bound to become part of our lives, just as classical computers and smartphones did in the past. It is important to take a comprehensive view of the prospects that open, while assessing both the positive and negative sides of technological innovation in various industries and spheres of life. In a research report published in early 2022, the World Economic Forum formulated the main principles of quantum technology evolution. These include workforce development, cybersecurity, and international standardization of quantum technology. 

In our research paper, we looked at information security issues associated and attempted to assess further progress and make relevant predictions. What matters is that our future is both technologically advanced and safe to live in.


  1. A Primer on Security of Quantum Computing.
  2. Analysis of crosstalk in NISQ devices and security implications in multiprogramming regime.
  3. QDoor: Exploiting Approximate Synthesis for Backdoor Attacks in Quantum Neural Networks.
  4. Exploring the Vulnerabilities of Machine Learning and Quantum Machine Learning to Adversarial Attacks using a Malware Dataset: A Comparative Analysis.
  5. A good example of this is a Caesar cipher. The key is a number: each letter in the message is shifted by that number of positions down the alphabet. Let us use the English alphabet as an example: if the key is equal to 4, then the letter A changes to E, B to F, and so on. What is the problem with this? You cannot guarantee that the sender will not be eavesdropped on while telling the recipient what the key is, or in other words, a third party will not obtain it. After all, a malicious actor is equally capable of decrypting the message sent to the recipient. While a Caesar cipher is certainly easy to bruteforce, as this only takes as many options to process as there are letters in the alphabet, stronger ciphers exist, such as AES, 3DES, or GOST 28147-89.
  6. Protecting Fiber-Optic Quantum Key Distribution Sources against Light-Injection Attacks.
  7. Blind quantum computing. The word "blind" here suggests that the quantum computer does not have full information about the problems it is working on. This guarantees that the client's computing tasks remain confidential.
  8. An Automata-Based Framework for Verification and Bug Hunting in Quantum Circuits.
  9. A Primer on Security of Quantum Computing.

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