Best Practices 12-05-2020

2020 Quantum Advances and 2021 Predictions

Timothy Hollebeek

This year quantum computing is reaching a turning point. Quantum computing has made significant progress in 2020, and we predict the advancements in 2021 will bring it closer to reality than ever before. However, preparing for post-quantum computing will likely take longer than you expect and you need to start preparing now to protect your organization.

We’ve rounded up some of the significant quantum advances of 2020 and prepared our predictions for what you can expect going into 2021.

2020 advances

A lot happened in 2020, and while many of us transitioned to work from home, quantum development continued to push forward. Here’s a timeline of some of the quantum advances in 2020.

2021 predictions

Given the many advances made this year toward achieving practical, large-scale quantum computers, the easiest 2021 prediction is that these advances will continue. And that prediction will almost certainly be correct. One of these companies will likely announce in 2021 that they have used a quantum computer to successfully solve a practical problem that cannot be solved by conventional supercomputers.

Solving a problem with quantum unsolvable by conventional supercomputers is the next major milestone in the evolution of commercially viable quantum computers. On its own, it doesn’t mean that encryption methods like RSA or ECC are at risk, since breaking encryption algorithms requires fairly large quantum computers, and those will not exist in 2021. But the ability to solve practical problems will drive additional investment in developing better quantum computers. That is the same virtuous feedback loop that led to Moore’s law, where classical computers became exponentially more powerful every year.

Cryptographic transitions take time, often decades, so organizations will have to start preparing now if they want to be ready when sufficiently large quantum computers exist. Standards organizations and security experts are busy working on laying the groundwork for those transitions. The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) recently held a workshop on Considerations in Migrating to Post-Quantum Cryptographic algorithms, and NIST will likely select a few algorithms for standardization in late 2021. This will hopefully jumpstart the efforts to get these algorithms deployed.

All the progress made in 2020 puts us that much closer to a quantum reality. 71% of IT professionals believe that quantum computing will be an extremely large threat in the near future. If your organization is not preparing now, you will begin to get left behind in 2021.

Prepare now

If your organization has not started preparing for quantum computing, make it a New Year’s resolution to learn more and prepare for quantum computing. Quantum computing is likely to become a reality within the next five to ten years, and even though scientists have been saying that for a few years, it’s more true now than ever.

While quantum computing could easily take a decade to arrive mainstream, it’s not a race that you can afford to lose. Essentially, you are in a race between your organization and the computers in which you do not have any slack time.

To help you get started, DigiCert is working with industry experts to create a quantum-safe public key infrastructure (PKI) ecosystem prepared to face future threats. DigiCert has also created a post-quantum crypto (PQC) toolkit so you can test hybrid PQC/RSA certificates against quantum algorithms.

DigiCert’s PQC test kit includes:

  • Hybrid RSA/PQC TLS certificates
  • A modified Apache webserver/ISARA catalyst server
  • Custom Firefox browser

Read more of our predictions for 2021 and the future in our new year’s security predictions blog.


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