ISARA Team Photo

To most people, the world of quantum is one of obscurity and contradiction. Unlike classical computation where each bit is either a 1 or a 0, quantum logic operates whereby quantum bits (qubits) exist in constantly changing probabilities of 0 and 1 simultaneously. This phenomenon is known as superposition and is in part what enables quantum computers to compute multiple variables at once as opposed to classical computers which can only compute one variable at a time. Quantum computing promises an exponential increase in computational power, bringing us closer to solving challenges that were previously too complex for computers to tackle.

The quantum leap in computing power will give us the ability to create next generation AI algorithms, the likes with which we can use to do things like optimize traffic flows in smart cities and digitally model molecular compounds to speed up drug discovery times. Conversely, however, when placed in the wrong hands, quantum computing poses an existential threat to our entire internet infrastructure.

Recognizing the benefits and risks that quantum will bring about, former BlackBerry security executives Scott Totzke and Mike Brown, decided to co-found ISARA in 2015. The company was established with the goal of securing corporate data while bridging the gap between the quantum and classical worlds with crypto-agile technologies.

“As we move from today’s transistor computers to quantum computers, we realized that we need to make a wholesale shift in the industry in terms of how we deal with some of the most fundamental aspects of cybersecurity, in this case public-key cryptography,” says Scott Totzke.

Currently when we get an update on our phone, sign in to mobile banking, or make an online purchase, our security information is protected by public-key cryptography. This standardised encryption underpins internet security today, it is used within everything that digitally connects and transacts, and to most of us is completely invisible. Within a decade, however, industry experts predict that the industry standard encryption will be broken by a large-scale quantum computer, and it will be broken all at once. In an increasingly connected world made possible by the advent of AI, global logistics and IoT devices, trust in the systems that support our modern economy is vital.

That’s why to combat this threat, ISARA has developed a quantum-safe software kit for developers that provides them with high-performance, standard-based quantum-safe algorithms. ISARA’s software can be integrated into a platform, allowing for a seamless transition to the future of security, without having to rework clients’ web architecture. “It will just remain something that’s under the surface, absolutely transparent from a user’s standpoint, and our users’ behaviour and experiences won’t change,” says Scott Totzke.

ISARA’s headquarters is in Waterloo, Ontario — in close proximity to the University of Waterloo, a multi-disciplinary academic ecosystem with the largest faculty of mathematics in the world. This gives ISARA access to world class talent, from expertise in advanced mathematics to computational research, the kind of talent that’s best equipped to build the algorithms that will withstand a future quantum attack. “In Ontario we’re very fortunate to have the human capital to take on these aspirational goals of building the next generation of world leading security solutions.”

The quantum security market is still in its infancy, and as it grows, so will ISARA. They currently employ 43 full time staff and have plans to add 50% more to that number over the next few years. Only recently have some of the large original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM’s) that provide infrastructure to enterprises, cloud service providers and telecommunications companies begun to place quantum safe capabilities into their product road map. The demand for quantum security will only increase as we get closer to large scale quantum computing and as companies begin to recognize their security vulnerabilities.

“I think what we’re seeing is Ontario becoming well established for really outstanding innovation and being able to solve problems that traditionally people might have looked to Silicon Valley to deal with. It shows that we can do something really special and unique, and I think ISARA is a really good example of that,” boasts Totzke.