From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Quantum Technology
Mains level : Cyber security, Quantum Technology applications, advantages and disadvantages.
- The Army has collaborated with industry and academia to build secure communications and cryptography applications. This step builds on last year’s initiative to establish a quantum computing laboratory at the military engineering institute in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh.
What is mean by quantum computing?
- Quantum computing is an area of study focused on the development of computer based technologies centered around the principles of quantum theory.
- Quantum computing studies computation systems that make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena to perform operations on data.
- Classical computers encode information in bits. Each bit can take the value of 1 or 0. These 1s and 0s act as on/off switches that ultimately drive computer functions.
What is quantum Theory?
- Quantum theory explains the nature and behavior of energy and matter on the quantum (atomic and subatomic) level. Quantum theory is the theoretical basis of modern physics.
- The nature and behavior of matter and energy at that level is sometimes referred to as quantum physics and quantum mechanics.
What is quantum computing laboratory that the Army has set up?
- Two research centres: The Army has set up a quantum computing laboratory and a centre for artificial intelligence (AI) at a military engineering institute in Madhya Pradesh. The Army will get support from National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS).
- Purpose of the quantum lab: To spearhead research and training in this key developing field. It said the Indian Army is making steady and significant strides in the field of emerging technologies
- To Train personnel on the cyber warfare: Training on cyber warfare is being imparted through a state of the art cyber range and cyber security labs.
- The Focus areas: Key thrust areas are quantum key distribution, quantum communication and quantum computing, among others.
What is the rationale behind this development?
- To provide facility centre for extensive and dedicated research: The two centres will carry out extensive research in developing transformative technologies for use by the armed forces.
- To transform the current system of cryptography: Research undertaken by the Army in the field of quantum technology will help it leapfrog into the next generation of communication and transform the current system of cryptography to post-quantum cryptography.
- Developing quantum resistant systems: With traditional encryption models at risk and increasing military applications of quantum technology, the deployment of quantum-resistant systems has become the need of the hour.
- Vulnerable existing digital infrastructure: There is a need of upgrading current encryption standards that can be broken by quantum cryptography. Current protocols like the RSA will quickly become outdated. This means that quantum cyber attacks can potentially breach any hardened target, opening a significant vulnerability for existing digital infrastructure. Hack proofing these systems will require considerable investments.
- To be in a League of nations in this sector: For example US: National Quantum Initiative Act has already allocated $1.2 billion for research in defence related quantum technology. China now hosts two of the world’s fastest quantum computers.
India’s developments in this sector so far?
- National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications: In 2019, the Centre declared quantum technology a “mission of national importance”. The Union Budget 2020-21 had proposed to spend Rs 8,000 crore on the newly launched National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications.
- Successfully demonstrated a Quantum key Distribution (QKD) link: In February 2022, a joint team of the Defence Research and Development Organization and IIT Delhi successfully demonstrated a QKD link between two cities in UP Prayagraj and Vindhyachal located 100 kilometres apart.
What are the challenges facing India?
- Current capabilities are not sufficient: Currently, India has very few capabilities in developing advanced systems capable of withstanding quantum cyber attacks.
- The china challenge: China’s quantum advances expand the spectre of quantum cyber attacks against India’s digital infrastructure, which already faces a barrage of attacks from Chinese state-sponsored hackers.
- Dependence on Foreign hardware: India is heavily dependent on foreign hardware, particularly Chinese hardware, is an additional vulnerability.
How India can make its cyberspace resilient?
- Procuring quantum resistant mechanism from US: India must consider procuring the United States National Security Agency’s (NSA) Suite B Cryptography Quantum-Resistant Suite as its official encryption mechanism. The NSA is developing new algorithms for their cypher suite that are resistant to quantum cyber attacks. This can then facilitate India’s official transition to quantum-resistant algorithms.
- Enhancing cryptographic standards: The Indian Defence establishment can consider emulating the cryptographic standards set by the US’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) which has developed a series of encryption tools to handle quantum computer attacks. It has developed a series of four algorithms to frame a post-quantum cryptographic standard.
- Diplomatic partnerships in this sector: Diplomatic partnerships with other techno-democracies countries with top technology sectors, advanced economies, and a commitment to liberal democracy can help India pool resources and mitigate emerging quantum cyber threats.
- Active participation in global avenues: Active participation in the Open Quantum Safe project a global initiative started in 2016 for prototyping and integrating quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms.
- Providing funds and encouragement: India must start its national initiatives to develop quantum-resistant systems. For this, the government can fund and encourage existing open-source projects related to post-quantum cryptography.
- Start implementing the capabilities: The country should start implementing and developing capabilities in quantum-resistant communications, specifically for critical strategic sectors. QKDs over long distances, especially connecting military outposts for sensitive communications, can be prioritised to ensure secure communications whilst protecting key intelligence from potential quantum cyber attacks.
- Establishing nationwide network: Establish a nationwide communication network integrated with quantum cryptographic systems, thereby protecting cyberspace from any cross-border quantum cyber offensive.
- The world is moving towards an era in which the applications of quantum physics in strategic domains will soon become a reality, increasing cyber security risks. India is getting there slowly but steadily. India needs a holistic approach to tackle these challenges. At the heart of this approach should be the focus on post-quantum cyber security.
Q.The world is moving towards an era in which applications of quantum physics in strategic domains will soon become a reality, increasing cyber security threats. In this context, what steps can India take to make its cyberspace resilient and quantum-resistant? Discuss.