Isaac Asimov’ Dream
Big business spends billions of dollars yearly to insure themselves against the nightmare that can be a cybersecurity break-in from an outside black hat.
The aftermath of such an event can have far-reaching consequences for any business it happens to. Depending on the seriousness of the cybercrime, the smaller the business, the greater the effect it has, at least from a financial perspective. Often, it can mean a company ceases trading, especially for your bootstrapped startup with little money to spend on preventative measures and even less recourse to do anything about the cybercrime.
There are, of course, a plethora of companies out there on the market whose business it is to protect the customer in such a situation, using classical computer systems to defend against the threat.
As we move further into the new decade, this threat will become even greater. Quantum computing (QC), the new byword for the new decade introducing a technology that would be right at home in the pages of an Isaac Asimov science fiction novel, is here.
And here to stay.
QC is both a friend and a foe: We can use the magic of superposition and entanglement to create powerful algorithms, run chemical simulations and factor integers while at the same time being able, in theory at least, to break RSA and the blockchain.
Spooky, don’t you think?
We can already see on the market a number of startups and bigger, already well-established companies and multinationals, offering solutions in cybersecurity using quantum information science as the backbone of their technology.
The UK’s KETS Quantum Security and QuSecure out of Menlo Park, California, are just two representatives of more than twenty in the ecosystem specializing in shaping the QC cybersecurity landscape.
And more are appearing on the market as we speak.
Trust is an important word. In the world of business (apart from marriage, I suppose) more than any other.
So when we hear these companies are offering their services in a disruptive technology that up to now has been devoid of any practical, cost-effective solutions to everyday problems while promising the world and more, it’s natural for eyes to roll in skepticism.
It doesn’t matter that they’re British or American or from any other country on the planet.
Doubt will be there and questions raised:
What do you actually do?
How secure is your technology?
Is your industry regulated?
How do you store our data?
And this is with western companies. Naive westerners have been conditioned to think the White House and Downing Street are bastions of integrity and honesty.
Don’t think so, sucker.
They never have been and never will be.
First Masters of the World
But this problem is exacerbated exponentially when you find out there are two Chinese startups on the QC market offering cybersecurity solutions for today’s problems:
Qasky and QuantumCTek.
Now, on a personal level, I don’t have a problem with it.
The Chinese were one of the early masters of the world — they invented gunpowder, printing, the compass, paper money, and pasta — so they should get some of the credit for shaping civilization.
‘Commercialization is well underway for many quantum technologies in China.’
—Pan Jianwei, the godfather of Chinese quantum computing and physicist at the University of Science and Technology of China
Yet, things did go downhill for a while. Let’s say between the First Opium War in 1839 until the British left the place in 1997.
Do you see what I’m getting at?
There were other low points, too — the Japanese invasion, for one. Communist rule for the last seventy years, at least if you’re a Trumpian capitalist.
But the Chinese soldiered on until, well, the late 1970s. That was a watershed decade for the Chinese. Deng Xiaoping, the then leader, got the ball rolling into creating what China is today: a monster of commerce, a gargantuan phenomenon of business built on the labour of its 1.7 billion inhabitants. In an instant, millions of farmers became the urban proletariat in what was to become one of the biggest mass migrations in history.
One child policies.
Economic zones that were to open up the east to the west.
The bloody carnage of Tianmen Square.
Before the first stock exchange in Shanghai followed in November 1990.
China today is a powerhouse of commerce and technology. No longer an imitator, but an innovator.
Quantum computing, like other tech spaces, is seeing a huge interest by the Chinese government and large corporations like Alibaba, as well as startups.
This is a good thing. The only caveat to all this is how independent the likes of Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and Huawei — not to mention the smaller operations like Qasky and QuantumCTek — are from the control of the all-powerful Communist Party in Beijing?
Qasky, based in Wuhu City, Anhui Province, is a startup established in 2016 whose focus is the commercialization of quantum cryptography research conducted at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Its business plan aims to provide services and products in quantum cryptography in regard to network security control, terminal, network/switching equipment and application software.
According to the Qasky website, the startup aims to:
Modulate and control the single photon, to create a password in quantum state modelling
The ‘Company Introduction’ page presents the slogan:
Exploring the truth for the glorious of Chinese Nation
Apart from the glaring grammatical mistakes, the background image of two hands clenched in friendship borders on agitprop from the Mao Zedong era.
Data on the management team, investment and articles are sparse as the website is very slow and not very functional.
Moving on to QuantumCTek Group, things are a lot clearer. Based in the city of Hefei— home of the University of Science and Technology of China whose faculty member is Jian-Wei Pan, pioneer of quantum computing in the country — the startup’s tagline is:
Quantum Secures Every Bit
Notwithstanding the startup obviously employed Don Draper from Mad Men for a hefty retainer to write their copy, the website is a joy compared to Qasky’s clunky offering.
The company, founded in 2009, claims to be the first company in China to deliver quantum-secure communication network core equipment, application products and system software amongst other things.
With its headquarters in Hefei, it also has wholly-owned subsidiary offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Jinan, Suzhou, Guangzhou, and the far western province of Xinjiang where they lock up and brainwash all the Muslims.
The startup’s Chairman is Chengzhi Peng, while Yong Zhao acts as President and Chief Engineer. Again, further investigation into the whereabouts, education, contact details or LinkedIn profiles of these men comes to nothing.
It seems, like in the case of Qasky, it’d be easier to find the Scarlett Pimpernel or Glenn Miller than gain any solid, insightful data on these two Chinese startups.
Great Chinese Firewall
Jokes on the side, though, they seem to be doing good work with research that will, in the years to come, produce results that can possibly change the course of QC in China and further afield. And in QuantumCTek’s case, seeing as Pan Jianwei has some capacity of involvement, the startup could become a leading player in the ecosystem.
However, with little data on what they’re doing and no real way of knowing without encountering the Great Chinese Firewall, it appears to trust their products, by way of adoption, is risky.
President Xi Jinping, no doubt, has his hands in the pie in both startups, leading to the conclusion: