2021: Industry moves to watch…

Author: Dr Ali El Kaafarani
Topic: Comment, Events, News

When looking out at the year ahead, it’s always tempting to try to predict what it will bring.

Those of us that tried to anticipate the course of 2020 were in for a bit of a shock. But although some things panned out quite unexpectedly, other trends followed recognisable patterns.

When we put our ear to the ground, this is what we hear coming our way for 2021:

The battle for quantum supremacy rages on 

In 2021, the race to achieve quantum supremacy will step up a notch. The industry is at a tipping point, and we can expect significant announcements about quantum supremacy, as well as more clearly-defined roadmaps to guide us towards a quantum future.

So far, major developments have largely been driven by private organisations, but governments are now trying to catch up. We can expect to see further investment from states and governments in the year ahead.

Whilst all eyes will be on the major players, we mustn’t overlook the startups driving new approaches to quantum technologies. It’s all still to play for, and smaller companies could be instrumental in bringing in radical innovation.

Security experts fix tomorrow’s problems, today 

Of course, new developments in quantum computing also have their downsides. The potential benefits are incredibly exciting, but we mustn’t forget the dangers these super-powerful machines will bring to information security.

With an increased reliance on online communications, last year saw new vulnerabilities brought in with the rise of home working. We also saw a number of significant breaches. The 2020 SolarWinds attack was deemed one of the worst-ever cyber attacks on the US government, and security experts around the world will be doing everything in their power to prevent it from happening again.

Ensuring the right safeguards are in place will be a top priority for almost every industry this year. The ‘fix it when it breaks’ mentality is no longer viable, and companies are under pressure to future-proof their infrastructure to protect the sensitive data they hold.

No industry is safe, but for essential sectors like healthcare, transport and energy, there really is no time to waste.

Post-quantum cryptography gets a global standard 

Around the end of 2021, NIST is set to announce its standards for post-quantum cryptography. This is a significant milestone, as it will encourage more sectors to adopt quantum-ready solutions that protect their data for the long term.

And not a moment too soon. Quantum attacks will work in retrospect, threatening information from past, present and future. Of course, for those that can’t wait for the NIST announcement, it’s possible to get ahead with a security infrastructure designed to work with all of the finalist algorithms that are suitable for their use-case, and in a hybrid fashion when needed to be.

In 2021, we’ll see sectors such as critical national infrastructure and OEMs lead the charge in implementing the new standards, the former in the interest of national security and the latter in order to future-proof products and components with long lifespans.

Privacy-first: Businesses get to grips with encryption

Privacy is one of the biggest issues of our time. In 2020, GDPR was finally enforced, and we saw the first fines dealt out for breaches of the data privacy rules. The regulatory landscape is evolving rapidly, and companies have had to roll out serious changes to ensure compliance.

But it’s a responsibility that goes beyond regulation. The onus is on companies to protect consumer data, and an increasingly tough public is becoming far less forgiving of data breaches caused by negligence. Companies have a moral, as well as a legal, duty to step up to the plate and take information security seriously.

That means doing all they can to take care of the data they hold. It’s no mean feat, but cryptography will play a vital role in helping them get there, ensuring sensitive data is protected now and into the future.