Sunil Gupta, Co-Founder and CEO of QNu Labs, was recently a part of NewsX’s special series ‘NewsX India A-List’. In an exclusive interview, Mr. Gupta spoke at length about how QNu Labs is accelerating the world’s transition to quantum safe security and his vision for the company.
QNu Labs provides solutions to the issues that exist in the field of cryptography. Highlighting these issues, Mr. Gupta said, “All of us have been depending on cryptography for almost two decades. Today, when we do internet banking, mobile banking, or any transaction for that matter, we are confident that cryptography technology is taking care of our transactions and it is secure. But, what has happened in the last decade, and especially in the last 5 years, is that the top 5 companies of the world have put in billions of dollars to come up with a major disruption in computing, like the disruption that happened with the arrival of the Internet. We believe that the arrival of quantum computing will change the world in more ways than has ever happened before.”
In October 2019, Google claimed that they have achieved the quantum supremacy. What it means is that they have a computer that can perform a calculation in three minutes and 20 seconds that would take today’s most advanced classical computer, known as Summit, approximately 10,000 years. Now, if such a computer arrives in next 3-5 years, it can break the current cryptography in just a matter of seconds. The reason why that is possible is that the current cryptography is based on ‘a hard mathematical problem’. Today, cryptography is a large number; an integer. If I take any two numbers, today’s computers can easily multiply them and get another large number, easily. But if I give you a very large number and ask you to find factors of that, even the best supercomputers will take billions of years to do that because it has so many combinations. For the upcoming quantum computers, this will take a matter of seconds, which means the hard problem on which we have been depending on (in cryptography) is not going to be a hard problem anymore. We need to move away from computational security to something else.
Emphasising on the importance to switch to better cybersecurity solutions, Mr Gupta added, “I come from a cybersecurity and IT background. One thing that has always bothered the founders and I was that every breach that the world has seen—and the world has seen a large amount of breaches in the last five to six years—we’ve always found that the hackers have a technology or capability that is a few years ahead of the enterprises that are trying to defend themselves. It is like a ‘Tom and Jerry’ or a cat-and-mouse type of problem. We are always at a disadvantage because we are chasing something that is always ahead of us. This is the reason that most of the enterprises, despite putting millions of dollars, have not been able to protect themselves. We thought that if quantum computers come, well-equipped and well-funded hackers will be able to get ahead of everybody else and will lead to a data apocalypse. It will be the end of the world, in terms of data security. We couldn’t let that happen. Enterprises are working to secure critical data; their own data and the data of their customers. They need to move to quantum cryptography ahead of hackers. So what we did was, we used quantum physics. Instead of using a computational security, which is a hard mathematical problem, we moved to physics. We used laws of physics, like law of gravity and law of motion, which are unbreakable. We used a quantum physics principle, which is, again, unbreakable, to build the security. We have built two products: quantum key distribution, and quantum random number generator.”
Sharing how their products offer future proofing of data, Mr Gupta said, “What happens is, if you put QNu products into your network and all the data is encrypted using quantum encryption keys, then even if the hackers copy the data, they will get the AES encrypted data but will not have access to the encryption key. Today, the way the hackers break the encryption is that when they copy the data and encrypt the data, they also get the encryption key (public key). Now what the hackers do is that they take the public key along with the encrypted data and store them. After they get access to a sufficiently strong quantum computer, they will use Shor’s algorithm to break the key. With QNu quantum cryptography products, the hackers can get the encrypted data but will never get the encryption key. That’s like saying they get a lock without the key. The only way for them now is to use a brute force to break the encryption, which is again a very difficult job.”
When asked since data is the new oil, what are the basics at QNu Labs that make it different from the others, Mr Gupta responded, “Our vision was two-fold. One, to bring a technology that cannot be broken and can protect the companies. Two, which is a bigger problem for us today, was making sure that the world embraces the new technology because we’re in a race against time. That is the reason our vision was to accelerate the world’s transition to quantum safe cryptography. I also believe that if the world embraces quantum cryptography, it will be a better and secure place for mankind. We took that vision and built the products, but these products are not what we are going to sell. Our idea is to build interesting business-use cases over our quantum tech. For example, today if somebody wants to protect the data centres, we have solutions built around this. We have built a series of set of solutions like VPN security, point-to-point data security, cloud security, etc., which make sure that the enterprises will be able to protect their data in different configurations and situations. We haven’t built the offerings from a product-technology perspective, rather keeping in mind the application and use of the product by users of the existing scenarios.”
Speaking about the consumer response, Mr Gupta said, “It is early (to speak) in our journey. Our first adopters have been from defence because protection of the data is very important to them. We have had successful deployments within India’s defence and critical infrastructure. Currently, we are holding several interesting discussions in India, Middle-East and U.S., where we are working with large and medium enterprises and doing some pilots for them.”
On a concluding note, Mr Gupta shared his vision for the start-up and said, “Our larger vision is that tomorrow, a large number of enterprises should get to endorse this fact that QNu Labs came and helped them implement this technology in a very simple, easy and cost-effective manner, and that they could actually save themselves from future threats. Our vision is to protect enterprises from current vulnerabilities and make them safe from future threats.”