The field of quantum computing is developing fast. Quantum computers are based on a different kind of technology than ordinary computers. Instead of the usual bits that can only take on the values 1 or 0, quantum computers use so-called qubits, which can take on both values at the same time. This gives quantum computers a vastly greater computing power. The first prototypes of quantum computers have already been developed, and it is expected that these can be scaled up for more general use in the next twenty years.
That poses many challenges. Not only technologically, but also at the level of society. Including in the field of cyber security. The cryptography that is currently used by for example financial institutions and governments, is difficult to crack using existing computers, but can be cracked much more easily with a quantum computer. How do we ensure that these systems, which are vital to society, remain safe in the future? In other words, how can the transition to encryption that is resistant to attacks by quantum computers be managed in the right direction?
That is the overarching goal of the new research consortium Quantum Impact on Societal Security (QISS), led by Sebastian De Haro of the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation and the Institute of Physics of the University of Amsterdam. QISS is a multidisciplinary collaboration between scientists, financial institutions, the government and societal groups that will investigate the impact of this transition. To this end they were awarded more than 900,000 euros by the Nationale Wetenschapsagenda (National Science Agenda), one of the programmes of the national funding agency NWO. In addition, there is extra funding for this project from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch Banking Association.
‘With QISS, we broadly focus on four scientific goals,’ says De Haro. ‘First, identifying technical and societal requirements on innovation policies for quantum-safe cryptography. We will explore what enables an interactive approach to responsible innovation, in real-time as the technology develops. The second goal is to understand the dynamics of knowledge in research and innovation ecosystems. Thirdly, to draft novel innovation policies that satisfy the societal requirements for the financial and government sectors, clarifying their legal underpinning. And finally, our fourth goal is to link the development of new cryptographic standards to the subsequent stakeholder dynamics and their geopolitical consequences.’
Together these goals should make an important contribution to the Dutch ecosystem for quantum-secure cryptography, including the development of responsible innovation policy and regulations and proper public awareness.
In addition to the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation and the Institute of Physics, the University of Amsterdam’s Institute for Informatics and Institute for Information Law are also collaborating on this project.
In addition to the University of Amsterdam and the mentioned co-financiers, the following partners are involved in QISS: Quantum Delta, Fontys University of Applied Sciences, QuSoft, Rathenau Institute, De Nederlandsche Bank, ABN-AMRO, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations , Ministry of Justice and Security, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and other societal organisations. International partners include Aalto University School of Business, Quantum-Safe Canada, and the University of Cambridge.