Quantum computing and law enforcement.
N2K logoOct 27, 2023

European law enforcement organizations are encouraged to look into the implications quantum computing will have for their work.

Quantum computing and law enforcement.

Europol's Innovation Lab has published a report, "The Second Quantum Revolution," in which it outlines the potential implications of the new technology for law enforcement.

Greater computational power promises new cryptographic challenges and new sensing opportunities.

The report represents preparatory work. It urges agencies to stay aware of developments in the new field, and it summarizes its recommendations under five headings:

  1. "Observe quantum trends." The field is changing rapidly, and developments may be unexpected and quick to arrive. The Innovation Lab points out that, while quantum computers may still be years away from practical application, quantum communication and quantum sensing are already here.
  2. "Build up knowledge and start experimenting." Learn more about the field and those who work in it.
  3. "Foster research and development (R&D) project." Europol urges law enforcement organizations to connect with the scientific community.
  4. "Assess the impact of quantum technologies on fundamental rights." Any application of quantum technology to law enforcement may bring surprising challenges to human rights, and some forethought should be applied to how such threats might be countered.
  5. "Review your organisation's transition plans." This is particularly important with respect to preparing to move to post-quantum cryptography.

Quantum computing offers criminals new opportunities as well.

One possibility Europol mentions several times in its report is the prospect of criminals following a "store now, encrypt later" approach to the exploitation of stolen data. "While quantum computers are not yet available, their potential capability already has a profound impact on current data protection. Data encrypted today could be stored for an unlimited amount of time until a quantum computer powerful enough to decrypt it is available. This is known as the ‘store now, decrypt later’ approach (also known as ‘harvest now, decrypt later’ or ‘retrospective decryption’), triggering the need to consider how long encrypted data needs to stay confidential."

A review of "the Second Quantum Revolution" from an industry expert.

George McGregor, VP at Approov Mobile Security, wrote: “It is important that law enforcement agencies are aware of the impact of quantum computing and this is a good contribution from the Europol Innovation Lab. The recommendations could be less generic and more actionable however. For example, the document discusses the possibility of being able to decrypt currently inaccessible data in the future - it would be useful to provide guidelines on how to store data and to prepare for this eventuality. The report also encourages agencies to establish links and perform research in collaboration with industry experts - it would have been useful to highlight topics and areas of research to help drive this participation.”