Tech consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton has warned that China will soon plan the theft of high value data, so it can decrypt it once quantum computers break classical encryption.
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.
One of the use cases China desires is decryption.
"Encrypted data with intelligence longevity, like biometric markers, covert intelligence officer and source identities, Social Security numbers, and weapons designs, may be increasingly stolen under the expectation that they can eventually be decrypted," the report states.
The analysts prognosticate that China will also go after industrial data. "Especially likely targets will tend to align with Chinese economic and national security priorities, such as those developing pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, and high-performance materials," according to the report. China wants that data so that it can be used in quantum computing simulators, to understand how best to put actual quantum computers to work.
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The report also suggests that China can't help but be interested in quantum-powered AI, if it emerges, because it will improve the already-extensive analytics and surveillance capabilities deployed in the name of national security.
Those capabilities, according to a report released last Friday by Japan's National Institute for Defence Studies, have seen China start discussions of "intelligentized warfare" defined as follows:
Integrated warfare based on Internet of Things systems that uses intelligent weaponry and equipment and their corresponding methods in the land, sea, air, space, electromagnetic, cyber, and cognitive domains.
The Japanese report states China sees development of AI and quantum computing as essential to help it evolve such capabilities, and suggests significant reorganisation of China's military has already commenced to enable it to prosecute intelligentized warfare. The document suggests China is prioritising domains such as deep-sea warfare and quantum tech, as strength in emerging fields will give China an advantage in future conflicts fought in many different theatres.
Defending against a nation using AI and quantum tech to fight on an electromagnetic battlefield is, thankfully, not a task most Register readers will be required to carry out.
The Booz Allen Hamilton report, however, is aimed at chief information security officers, and offers them some advice about how best to prepare if China's quantum ambitions reach fruition.
The firm's key recommendations are to start work on an organizational strategy for deploying post-quantum encryption, and to model the risk of China using quantum tech to attack. Staying abreast of quantum computing technology and the changes it can create is also recommended – and if you’re still reading this article, you're doing your part! ®