»This is definitely the right place for me.«

 

Leonie Bruckert

Advisor, secunet Security Networks AG

Protection in the quantum age – and a secure future for Leonie

 

Some people go to work for the money; others because they like their colleagues, or because their company has a great reputation. Leonie Bruckert does it for all those reasons – and also to save tomorrow’s world. Or rather, she and her colleagues are working on technologies to ensure the world won’t need saving. G+D subsidiary secunet Security Networks AG is conducting research into post-quantum cryptography and Leonie plays a key role. “We want to make it impossible for a future quantum computer to crack all our firewalls and passwords.” No small task.

“I really enjoyed math and computer science at school,” recalls Bruckert. But she feels there’s something missing in her working life at the moment: The 27-year-old would welcome a few more female colleagues. “My world is a man’s world. I see very few women at conferences, for example.” Bruckert’s dream: “All these exciting math and science skills should be taught much earlier and more intensively at school to get girls interested in them. Many people still believe math and science are for boys, although that attitude is now starting to change – but slowly.” In 2016, however, secunet quickly realized that Leonie was exactly the woman they were looking for. The mathematician from Leipzig University of Applied Sciences was completing her master’s at the company. With experts in IT security and computer science in short supply, secunet is eager to attract them at all stages of their careers.

As for Leonie – she must have had her pick of employers? “Yes, thanks to my qualifications, I have some pretty good opportunities on the job market. But not many employers can rival secunet, since secunet is one of the leading players in the IT security field. So this is definitely the right place for me.” She works in a field that some think is “cool,” others think is “spooky,” and most people simply find far too complicated, namely post-quantum cryptography. Breaking that down a bit, cryptography is the science of encrypting information. If something is hidden, secret, or ambiguous, we say it is “cryptic.” This requirement applies, for instance, to online banking, sending emails, cloud storage, data transfer in the healthcare sector, controlling a smart home while on the move, and driving a connected car – all of these processes are protected by cryptographic algorithms nowadays. And the quantum? “That’s the future,” declares Bruckert, with visible pride. Universities and businesses are carrying out intensive research into the development of quantum computers. Bruckert explains: “Quantum computers will be so powerful that our existing cryptography is unable to protect our data and infrastructure adequately.”

Training tomorrow’s experts today: Leonie Bruckert teaches computer science at Dresden University of Applied Sciences.

»I enjoy a high degree of freedom and appreciate the relaxed and collaborative relationship with my managers. I can work from home, but I’m also out and about a lot, which I enjoy.«

Around the world, large sums of money are being invested in quantum technology research. In terms of expenditure not subject to state-secrecy restrictions, the EU is in the lead, followed by the US and China.

Which means now is the time to start getting really serious about the future. All the typical security processes currently used on the Internet are based on the assumption that existing computers would need years to break the encryption. However, quantum computers will eventually be able to crack it almost instantly. “Then we’ll have real problems,” Bruckert foresees. That’s why she is so focused on her research into quantum-secure alternatives – that is, solutions that are virtually impossible to decrypt even using quantum computers. Is that a bit like protecting your house against an intruder who has not yet been born? “It’s more like protecting against an intruder who has been born but is still a toddler. But if companies and governments stand idly by and watch until he’s bigger and stronger, it’ll be too late. We need to take care of the future today,” emphasizes Bruckert.

It sounds like a huge responsibility. But that is precisely what motivates Bruckert: “I find it really cool to be making the world a safer place. secunet primarily works on high-security solutions that are crucially important when government agencies or other state institutions communicate with each other, for example.” The company will continue to play its part in providing security in the quantum computer age. “For a mathematician, there’s nothing more exciting than this.” It helps that Bruckert is able to carry out all her research in a working environment that knows exactly what smart people need. “I enjoy a high degree of freedom and appreciate the relaxed and collaborative relationship with my managers. I always have someone to discuss things with and to listen to me when I need it. I can work from home, but I’m also out and about a lot, which I enjoy.” And the next time Bruckert is at an international conference in Florida or gives a paper at the Fraunhofer SIT Institute in Darmstadt, all the men in the audience are sure to be impressed.

15 billion
    US dollars

 

That is the size of the global digital security market today, with the figure increasing by more than 10 percent each year. Cyber risks, such as hacker attacks and industrial espionage, are on the rise. G+D makes an important contribution to securing transactions and values in many areas – from payment through communication to protecting identities. secunet specializes in helping countries, public authorities, and armed forces to uphold the very highest security standards.

Watch the full video interview with Leonie Bruckert here.

 

 

 

 

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