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  • Robert Farago

Love in the Age of Cryptographic Quantum Computing

Honey catches more flies than vinegar

Quantum computing uses quantum-mechanical phenomena - superposition and entanglement - to perform data operations. Confused? Not as confused as you’ll be if you take a look under the hood. All you really need to know…

Quantum computing has the potential to solve large and complex problems beyond classical computing’s current capabilities. Such as… data security codes that make the Enigma machine look like an abacus.

The entire U.S. financial system is protected by cryptography. And wouldn’t you know it? The U.S. and China are in a race to develop quantum computing. To hack the unhackable dream?

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

While the average American couldn’t give a shit about Meta and friends tracking their online activities, the computerized systems keeping them alive depend on cryptography.

All our essential services depend on computer security: fire, police, ambulance, hospitals, the military. Those are just the first responders. Computers control our water supply, food production and delivery. The electric grid that powers everything.

All these mission critical computers are potential targets of life-threatening disruption. Imagine terrorists shutting down Colorado’s electric grid (controlled by MS-DOS software until recently) in the dead of winter. Millions would perish.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2018, the Department of Energy established the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response.

This year, CESER received $560m in taxpayer tribute. A drop in the bucket compared to the almost inconceivable cost of a successful cyberattack on the grid. Or the R&D money being spent on quantum computing that could enable or defend against it.

Meanwhile, WebFX estimates that hacking costs US businesses $15.4b per year in both direct and indirect costs: repairing damaged systems, recovering lost data, paying ransoms; lost productivity, revenue and customer confidence.

Cybersecurity Ventures reckons the cost of ransomware attacks alone will rise to more than $265b annually by 2031. That’s without considering quantum computing or the full impact of Artificial Intelligence.

Contrary to popular belief, protecting against cyberattack isn’t all about building and monitoring better firewalls, intrusion detection systems and multi-factor authentication. The “other” danger is old school. For example…

On September 14, hackers ALPHV and Scattered Spider locked-out the servers serving the MGM Group for ten days.

Administrative and consumer-facing computer systems died at the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Bellagio, Aria, Mirage, New York-New York, Luxor and Excalibur hotel for ten days.

The Las Vegas ransomeware attack was accomplished with a single phone call to an employee. He was convinced to surrender the keys to the conglomerate’s computers. It was a “social engineering” attack.

Ever heard of a “honey trap”? That’s spy lingo for leveraging a person's emotions, desires or weaknesses to trick them into revealing sensitive information or perform a specific action.

The classic honey trap involves sex (pillow talk sink ships). With or without bumping uglies, the operative gets closerthanthis to their target to extract the intel they need. Passwords. Codes. The keys.

The more hackers know about their target’s personal life, the easier it is to manipulate them. Social media makes it easy to find a way to co-opt corporate key keepers.

You like Stars Wars not Star Trek. Really? Me too! Total nerd! Remember that episode where the Enterprise docks for a computer refit and the ship is hijacked by a group of aliens? That couldn’t happen to your company could it?

Blackmail is also a thing, both in relation to sex (e.g., infidelity or perversion) and addiction (e.g., drugs and gambling). Not to mention simple friendship.

Yes, employees with vital digital access are warned never to reveal information allowing system access. In the main, they aren’t being given the training to identify and thwart social engineering attacks. Ignorance further up the food chain is worse, not better.

Billions of dollars and countless lives are at stake. But don’t expect anything to change on the HR side of the cyber-security front until something really bad happens. And someone is willing to publicly admit how they were bamboozled.

At the moment, how quantum computers will work – and how we protect against their cryptographic capabilities – is a mystery. Human “programming” less so. And when you get right down to it, love conquers all.

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