Fintech data protection – Quantum-proofing blockchain

Kiran Bhagotra
CEO/Founder, ProtectBox

September 3rd, 2020

I wrote late in 2018 in Wired about the much-lauded tamper-proof Blockchain ledger which is being integrated into everything from insurance to immigration and is, of course, the basis for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

I predicted that due to its open structure Blockchain needed to be Quantum-proofed.

As I further elaborated at the IQT Conference in Boston in March this year, the Blockchain community fails to take account of inter-dependencies (e.g. regulation, consensus on changes and adoption of those changes across the community).

In addition, they are failing to properly address the still unresolved weaknesses/gaps in the various ways of quantum-proofing the Blockchain.

But by combining the competing technologies a better whole will emerge.

What do I mean by “Quantum-proofing”?

In simple terms, most are in agreement that it’s a huge space that at the furthest end (because it’s infrastructure) has quantum computing.

A quantum leap for our desktops and laptops by replacing the current binary 0/1 basis on which it works, with a multi-dimensional physics basis, or qubit and quantum sensing (sensors that sense using various physics bases versus the non-physics bases used currently), quantum imaging (in conjunction with q sensors and other q optics equipment, storing and transmitting huge amounts of data and patterns in and between q computers).

At the near end (so to be fixed/adopted first as they’re the building blocks for the infrastructure to work) has:

– quantum-resistant cryptography (QRC),

– adapting/replacing our current password systems so that they can’t be broken by q computers),

– quantum random number generation (QRNG) where the way in which the physics based password is securely randomly generated,

– quantum key distribution (QKD) where two remote points securely share passwords generated on a physics basis, quantum repeaters (qubits can’t be copied so to send them securely across quantum-secure distances you need to quantum-entangle or quantum-teleport (so quantum-entangled particles showing a Bell inequality) them, described as ‘spooky’ by Albert Einstein who couldn’t believe it.

Furthermore, Quantum-proofing is no longer revolutionary but is now evolutionary, why?

Quantum Proofing Around the Globe

In the US, EU and UK, government-led national strategies prevail working with a handful of predominantly high net worth business people and enterprises across all of the above areas.

In the UK, “earlier in the Summer the Cambridge to BT Astral Park channel of the UK’s (EPSRC funded) Quantum Communication Hub ran a full QKD secure teleconference between the sites.

This month in Bristol they showed a dynamic QKD key exchange over end-to-end core, metro and access networks. As well as demonstrations of applications, ranging from securing national infrastructure to securing end-user transactions.” said Andrew Collins from the UK’s Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre.

In the USA, Lawrence Gasman of Inside Quantum Technology, said that within a few years, quantum cybersecurity will be necessary for even day-to-day business communications.

More prosaically, Russia and China have taken a bottom up approach and started to look at how Quantum engineering and the Quantum Internet in particular, can be applied to improve infrastructure performance and business efficiency.

Russia is focused on the practicalities. 

Earlier this year the Russian Government signed a number of agreements with several state-owned enterprises to develop “Quantum Resilience” (kvantovaya ustoychivost). 

The Russian state-controlled bank Sherbank is now responsible for overseeing the development of AI capability but the Russian Railways oversee the development of Quantum Communications and Rosatom will manage the development of Quantum computing and Rostec the sensors. 

Rostec and Rosatom who will handle the introduction of Russian 5G networks and inter alia Russian approach to Quantum Internet has been set several practical goals. 

In sum, in Russia the development of Quantum Internet et al has been taken away from the Technologists and the Academics and given to the Business Sector.

China is also pursuing government-led initiatives to drive Quantum technological development at home, which started with the launch of its Micius/QUESS (Quantum Experiments at Space Scale) satellite in 2016 which demonstrated its ability to transmit securely at speed between land & space with a secure conference call between China and Austria.

Micius took months to complete this work that was planned to take two years i.e. transmitting 400,000 encryption keys in just one second but it only works at night and they’re planning to build a medium-high-orbit QKD satellite to offer encryption keys, 24/7.

This also has autonomous vehicles’ auto-pilot anti-hacking applications amongst others.

The planned US$10-billion National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences in Hefei, Anhui province, will lead the nation’s drive for quantum computing and sensing.

But Beijing has also allowed its private sector to take a lead by boosting state support for domestic companies to, in turn, protect its emerging technical capabilities from foreign competitors.

“Fintech is an arena where quantum-resistant cryptography is a near-term need. We see investment banks making QRC a budget priority and anticipate this will be one of the first sectors to adopt QRC.” said Andrew Irvine from Tusk Capital Management/MatchPlace.

Roberta Faux from Blackhorse Solutions (QRC) said “quantum-resistant cryptography (QRC) is something available today and will need to be implemented before large scale quantum computer arrive.”

Kelly Richdale of idQuantique (QKD) said ““While the Quantum Internet is a very broad term, QKD is actually already being deployed in by organisations who are moving to quantum-secure the areas of their network with the highest risk profile.

Notably banks, governments and enterprises are already securing their Data Center Interconnect links with QKD, as this is where all their mission critical data is backed up daily. It is therefore also the major attack vector for downloading and subsequently decrypting the entire digital assets of an organization.

As a next step the same organisations are then linking the various buildings in their Metro Area Networks and then regional centers by QKD using Trusted Node technologies. Intercontinental QKD via satellite will then follow in the next 5-10 years and then we can truly speak about a global quantum internet.

Quantum Computing and Telcos

Key players in providing a Quantum Internet will also be the telcos, who could offer Quantum Security as a Service to their business & government users, as well as using QKD to protect their own 5G core networks.”

Toshiba has commercialised reliable high key rate QKD and its new Twin Field QKD will push that range to 500km, whose Matt McDowell said “QKD is a usable technology today and improvements in range without expensive secure intermediary stations will open the door to ubiquitous adoption.

We are engaged with FinTech on three continents for QKD implementation.”

Andrew Shields, Assistant Managing Director at Toshiba’s Cambridge lab, commented: “Quantum communication technology is maturing very rapidly, with several large networks now in operation around the world.

OPENQKD has a focus upon developing and demonstrating use cases for QKD technology, which will accelerate its commercial adoption in a number of different market sectors.

We are delighted to contribute to this ecosystem of companies developing complete solutions that will secure the future IT infrastructure of European businesses and citizens.” 

Andrew Lord, Head of Optical Research at BT, added: “We have been trialling QKD technology for several years now and see potential for its commercial exploitation in telecom networks.

In OPENQKD we will be developing the necessary tools and knowledge for integration into operator networks and customer applications.”  

Hannes Hübel, scientist at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology and project leader of OPENQKD: “After successfully demonstrating the basic concept of QKD, quantum based cryptography has achieved a mature state and we are proud to lift quantum technology now onto a market-ready level – ready to be deployed in everyday-life applications.”  

The quantum future is very bright.

But as with real-life, challenges always remain, some of these include how us human beings will manage this dichotomy (practicalities of complementing and supplementing the old classic computing networks, systems, processors etc with the new quantum equivalents, budget implications for this etc.) as well as the inevitable “black swan” that very clever people will eventually find a way of breaking into Quantum secure networks.

So how do we stay ahead?

And how do we stay ahead of fintech data protection?