11 Apr Arqit Helps Prepare The World For ‘Q-Day’
Fledgling company brings quantum-safe encryption to the cloud
Melbourne, Australia – Apr. 11, 2022
For all its promise in revolutionizing the processing of data, quantum computing is also a threat that looms increasingly large for organizations storing sensitive encrypted data.
At some point in the not-too-distant future, the arrival of the so-called “Q-Day” will see quantum computers able to crack the encryption algorithms used to store the world’s most sensitive data — and years of encryption algorithms will suddenly become obsolete.
It’s a sobering threat that has kept encryption specialists occupied for years — but David Williams is confident that he’s cracked the problem.
The UK-based firm he founded and of which he is now CEO, Arqit, worked to find a solution by developing a new way of generating and using cryptography keys so that public key infrastructure (PKI) systems could be designed to resist brute-force attacks by future quantum computers.
Development of quantum-safe algorithms has become a high priority for post-quantum cryptography (PQC) companies as quantum computers continue to push towards viability within the next decade.
It was a challenge he anticipated during his previous role as founder of Avanti Communications Group, a satellite operator that provides communications capacity across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Despite implementing robust and secure encrypted communications to protect data travelling across that network, Williams said, by 2017 it was clear that rapidly evolving quantum computers would eventually render their efforts at data security obsolete.
“We became very aware of the threats to encryption that were looming, and took the view that quantum computers were likely to reach ‘universal’ stage by around 2027,” he told Cybercrime Magazine, “at which point all of the world’s PKI systems are definitively compromised.”
Williams and his technical team set about developing the technology that ultimately became QuantumCloud — a quantum encryption key generation system that works on a platform as a service (PaaS) basis to generate an unlimited number of keys at any size.
“The keys that it creates are generated in the moment that they’re needed,” Williams said, “so they are entirely trustless and computationally secure.”
Funding the cloud vision
The technology is protected by more than a dozen patent applications, which the company has protected vigorously while developing partnerships and building a supportive network of enthusiastic investors.
Whilst the technology Arqit developed offered a novel solution to a problem faced by businesses and governments worldwide, scaling it up to commercial viability was a completely different type of effort.
“We knew that once we finished innovating, we had to build an international carrier-class infrastructure,” Williams explained, “and so venture funding was always going to be necessary.”
Reaching out to the venture-capital market led Williams to meet with Evolution Equity Partners founder and managing partner Richard Seewald — a seasoned security-industry veteran whose support of companies including SecurityScorecard, Cape Privacy, and Quantexa has made him an industry luminary.
Seewald, along with team members including Dennis Smith and Taher Elgamal, were receptive to Williams’ vision and helped formulate an effective plan for growing Arqit and its QuantumCloud technology.
“We found them to be very knowledgeable about our sector,” Williams said. “They were not over-exuberant, and they were quite cautious to understand the technology.”
“They have very deep-rooted expertise in cybersecurity,” he continued, “and they were able to take a very well-informed view, and to back that up with decades of very deep skill and talents in the sector.”
Ready access to this skill can be the difference between a successful ramp-up and an ongoing struggle, but Williams said Seewald’s legal expertise and insight, in particular, proved invaluable in structuring the company’s deals.
“They’ve been a very supportive partner,” he said, “both in terms of helping us to understand, validate, and even guide our technology development, and also in helping us to close difficult deals quickly.”
That skill has put Arqit in the investment fast lane, with the company securing funding as part of Evolution’s oversubscribed $400 million Evolution Technology Fund II LP, which is ultimately expected to fund 20 to 25 companies with between $10 million and $50 million each.
Arqit partnerships have quickly extended the company’s reach worldwide, with a $400 million major investment by Virgin Orbit and merger with Centricus Acquisition Corp. driving Arqit’s market value to $1.4 billion.
Among Arqit’s projects will be the construction and launching of two low earth orbit (LEO) quantum-encryption satellites, which will extend its encryption cloud worldwide and provide instant access to quantum-safe cryptography capabilities.
Arqit’s status as a space-tech unicorn has made it a roaring success in quantum circles, but Williams knows that it would never have happened without the right investment strategy early on.
“Venture funding is of fundamental importance to an early-stage tech company,” he said. “But don’t raise venture capital until you’ve tested your thesis with customers — and only raise venture capital when you know that your product concepts are ready. Then raise the venture capital — but also choose the right investor.”
– David Braue is an award-winning technology writer based in Melbourne, Australia.
Go here to read all of David’s Cybercrime Magazine articles.
Evolution Equity Partners is an international venture capital investor partnering with exceptional entrepreneurs to develop market-leading cyber-security and enterprise software companies.
Based in New York City and Zurich, Switzerland, the firm is managed by investment and technology entrepreneurs who have built companies around the world and leverage their operating, technical and product development expertise to help entrepreneurs win.
Evolution has interest in companies utilizing big-data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, SaaS, mobile and the convergence of consumer and enterprise software to build leading information technology companies.