Quantum computers are perfectly suited to finding the prime factors of large numbers – the very capability that can break modern data encryption quickly, in a way that classical computers cannot.
But for many organizations, the well worn hype behind quantum computing, along with its inability to deliver any commercially viable product, has put quantum concerns on the back burner.
That’s not true for cyber criminals. They can tell you that the challenges posed by quantum computing to your data security are here now, well ahead of the technology itself. That makes now the time to consider biometric authentication to safeguard today’s data with a more rigorous verification process than simple passwords.
But how can your data security be legitimately threatened by technology that isn’t even available yet?
Understanding the Quantum Threat
For hackers, the play is simple, even if not necessarily obvious. Increasingly, cyber criminals are treating data like currency or fine wine, making speculative investments by collecting sensitive data they can’t even read. Yet.
Why? Because those quantum computers that aren’t yet ready for prime time will nevertheless, at some point, emerge as viable threats to modern encryption methods. And when they do, the bad guys may not even need to breach your front line defenses to pose a threat, especially if they already have your data.
Who needs to crack the lock when you can just steal the whole safe?
Corporate cybersecurity relies on multiple layers of defense, and one operating assumption is that if hackers do breach front line defenses, strong encryption ensures that even if they steal all the presents, they are only stealing the ones they can’t open.
Steal Now, Decrypt Later Threat to Encryption
Sure, some data has only ephemeral value that dissipates over time. But there are volumes of sensitive personal and corporate data that do have a long shelf life.
What’s completely cryptic today, isn’t guaranteed to stay that way. By the time quantum computing emerges in earnest, savvy companies will be completely quantum resistant on the front end.
Defining the Quantum Threat to Encryption
Modern encryption, the cornerstone of data security, relies on complex mathematical algorithms to secure data. Currently, most encryption standards, such as RSA and AES, are considered secure against conventional computing attacks.
However, the advent of quantum computing poses a significant threat to these encryption methods. Quantum computers operate on the principles of quantum mechanics, allowing them to solve certain problems, such as factoring large numbers (a fundamental aspect of RSA encryption), exponentially faster than classical computers.
In anticipation of quantum computing becoming commercially viable, hackers are adopting a “steal now, decrypt later” approach. They’re amassing encrypted data with the expectation that future quantum computers will crack current encryption algorithms. This strategy makes even strongly encrypted data vulnerable in the long term, necessitating an additional layer of security.
With biometric markers, there’s no underlying mathematical structure to exploit. It’s not there.
That’s why the multi-pronged, biometric access strategy, enhanced with human verification, is so quantum-resistant.
The Role of Biometrics in Security
Biometrics offers a solution. Unlike passwords or encryption keys, biometric data – such as fingerprints, facial recognition, or iris scans – cannot be replicated or stolen for future decryption. Biometrics provides a unique, inherent link between an individual and the data or systems they’re authorized to access.
Technical Advantages of Biometrics:
- Uniqueness: Each biometric identifier is unique to the individual, drastically reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
- Non-repudiation: Biometric authentication provides strong evidence of the user’s identity, making it difficult for a user to deny access or transaction.
- User Convenience: Biometrics offers a user-friendly alternative to remembering complex passwords or carrying physical tokens.
- Layered Security: When combined with encryption, biometrics for enterprises adds a physical layer of security. This combination requires both something you know (a password or encryption key) and something you are (biometric data).
Challenges and Considerations
Despite their obvious advantages, biometric systems are not without challenges:
- False Acceptance and Rejection Rates: Balancing security with usability is crucial. Systems must minimize the risk of unauthorized access (false acceptance) without frequently denying access to legitimate users (false rejection).
- Privacy Concerns: Handling biometric data requires stringent privacy measures, as it is sensitive personal information.
- Technical Complexity: Integrating biometric systems with existing security protocols requires technical expertise and resources.
As the threatscape evolves with advancements in quantum computing, biometrics emerges as a key technology for enhancing data security right now.
It offers a resilient barrier against the “steal now, decrypt later” strategy, and the future of data security may well depend on our ability to integrate biometrics seamlessly with existing encryption methods, creating a more robust and non-mathematical defense against emerging quantum threats.