A quantum leap

February 2018 Cyber Security

Organisations today are embracing technology at an ever-greater pace to better equip, enable and empower their business for the future. From the creation of new business streams, to developing a competitive advantage, the leader’s role is becoming increasingly pivotal in defining the businesses needs and implementing the technology to facilitate change. In an environment where technology is developing and maturing at an exponential rate, leaders must always be looking ahead – so what does 2018 have in store?

Ronald Ravel.
Ronald Ravel.

Undoubtedly, one of the key dates for next year is the deadline for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance which comes into effect on 25 May 2018. It’s important for South African businesses which conduct business in the EU to understand exactly how they will be affected. According to the legislation, any company which processes the personal data of EU residents in connection with the offering of goods or services, or monitors the behaviour of those residents, may need to comply.

To complicate matters, South African companies also need to comply with the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPI). Fortunately, the provisions across the two pieces of data protection legislation are so similar that complying with the GDPR means complying with PoPI should be smooth sailing.

Yet, faced with the risks of penalties and even legal action, worryingly many are underprepared with over 50% of companies expected to not be in full compliance before the end of 2018. Never has it been more important for organisations to identify ways to best manage their data.

In addition, organisations will continue to be faced with an exponential growth in cybercrime. Ransomware damages alone were expected to rise fifteen times from 2015, hitting $5bn globally this year. Simultaneously, technology is fuelling a transition towards mobile and remote working, ushering in a new era of productivity, and bringing with it new security challenges.

To address the increasingly complex regulatory environment, the growth in cybercrime, and adoption of mobile working practices, we expect to see a growth in the acceptance and education of some specific technology trends. These include: quantum cryptography, Edge Computing, and cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructures.

Quantum cryptography

The basic building blocks of computing are set to morph from maths to physics in the future with the introduction of quantum computing. Global industry analysts forecast its global market to reach $2 billion by 2024, a growth which is primarily driven by a constant need for the most secure online data transmission possible. From this, quantum cryptography is emerging as a highly-evolved protection method, necessary to combat ever-increasing security threats. This method can produce a message unreadable to all except its specific, intended recipient, called quantum key distribution (QKD), whereby ‘keys’ are distributed as photons, usually light rays, which if intercepted, will immediately change state rendering itself unreadable.

Recently, Toshiba made a breakthrough with quantum cryptography at its Cambridge Research Laboratory by creating the world’s fastest QKD device. Attaining a speed of 3.7 Mbps per second – roughly seven times faster than Toshiba’s previous record speed of 1.9 Mbps – this breakthrough brings the practical utilisation of quantum technology one step closer to the wider global community.

Edge computing

With data proliferation coming from the rise of IoT and the predicted capabilities of 5G in 2018, edge computing will become ever more vital. For organisations that handle large amounts of data, deciphering what to send to the cloud can reduce backlogs, allowing it to perform the heavier tasks while edge computing technology allows increased mobility and real-time processing, thus increasing efficiency at both ends of an organisation’s IT chain.

Wearables, such as smart glasses, will work in harmony with edge computing, helping to both streamline processes within organisations in ever more remote or mobile environments. Take the NHS in the UK for example, utilising a wide variety of end-point devices such as smart glasses to access locally stored data, healthcare providers

can collect and analyse patient data from the edge in real time while interacting with patients. This will enable healthcare providers to dramatically increase their efficiency when consulting with patients, while more data can be sent to the cloud for further diagnosis.

Mobile zero clients

As organisations adopt more mobile and flexible working practices, security needs to be the number one priority to successfully embrace the benefits of mobility without falling victim to the increased threat of cybercrime. Organisations have already seen the benefits of thin client solutions, however, because of cost and limitations that restrict remote working, more will move towards zero client solutions which completely remove storage from devices, using external servers to drive operating systems with data access through a cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). By using zero client solutions data is protected against malware and security issues should a device be lost or stolen.

Whether preparing for regulatory change, protecting against the ever-expanding cyber threat landscape, or addressing trends like mobile working, 2018 will be a year of digital transformation and learning for many organisations. While technology such as quantum cryptography is still evolving, it is already offering equal opportunities for cryptographers and hackers, so organisations need to start considering how it will impact them now.

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