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The prospect of quantum computing, which could easily defeat current encryption standards, represents a major cyber risk, says Fitch Ratings.

In a new report, the rating agency says that the potential for quantum computers, which could run 100 million times faster than current technology, poses a real cyber threat.

“Quantum computing’s disruptive potential lies in its speed in comparison to a conventional computer,” Fitch says, noting that this could provide the processing speed and power to “undermine current encryption standards that have served as the lynchpin protecting online commerce.”

At current processing speeds, it would take many years to crack existing encryption standards, but Fitch says that “quantum computers could decrypt those formulas in less than a day.”

If hackers, or hostile governments, develop this technology, current encryption could be quickly comprised.

“This could add significantly to challenges in addressing cyber risk, with broad economic implications across industries, including non-life (re)insurers that sell cyber insurance coverage, as well as health and life insurers as prime targets of a cyber attack,” it says.

Fitch says that estimates about when this may become a reality range from imminently to 30 years from now.

“Temporary measures such as deploying longer encryption strings could slow down quantum decryption, as could other long-term solutions tested by the National Institute of Standards and Technology,” it says.

Insurers are seen as particularly rich targets for cyber attacks, Fitch says, given their access to large amounts of personal healthcare and financial data.

“The loss of data privacy would be far-reaching and could significantly disrupt cyber insurance as the costs of any breach would be significantly higher and attempts on data-rich sectors such as financial institutions would increase significantly,” it says.