An IBM executive has warned that governments and businesses are ill-prepared for the imminent havoc quantum computers are poised to wreak on cybersecurity by the end of the decade. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ana Paula Assis, IBM’s General Manager for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, posed the question, “Is quantum going to really create a cybersecurity Armageddon?” and asserted, “It’s going to.”

Quantum computers, leveraging parallel processing to drastically enhance computing power, are expected to render existing encryption systems obsolete. Assis, who anticipates the quantum era arriving by 2030, highlighted IBM’s role in developing foundational technologies for this paradigm shift.

Acknowledging the threat, some governments are taking action. In 2022, the U.S. Senate passed a bill addressing the impact of quantum computers on cryptography, signaling a rare unanimous vote on the matter.

However, the corporate sector lags in readiness. Jack Hidary, CEO of SandboxAQ, expressed concern on the panel, stating that most companies lack a comprehensive roadmap for integrating quantum machines and addressing the disruptions they will cause. He predicted a “trainwreck,” estimating that banks will need eight to 10 years to transition to post-quantum protocols, while scalable quantum computers are expected by 2029 or 2030. Hidary cautioned that any system using encryption, from e-commerce to online banking, is at risk.

Additional insights from the panel include Joel Mesot, President of ETH Zurich, highlighting China’s serious efforts in quantum computing. Mesot suggested that states might have better regulatory control over quantum computers than artificial intelligence due to the technology’s dependence on infrastructure.

Hidary observed that the development of quantum computing is outpacing projections, adding urgency to the need for preparedness. Meanwhile, Assis disclosed that two-thirds of developers using quantum computers rely on IBM’s open-source toolkit Qiskit to write their code. As the quantum era looms closer, it is evident that both governments and businesses must accelerate their efforts to address the cybersecurity challenges that quantum computing presents.

By Impact Lab