RBC Preps for Post-Quantum Wave with New Cybersecurity Lab in Waterloo

A massive financial institution is investing in new methods to protect their digital assets through a new partnership with a leading educator.

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is opening a new lab and investing $1.78 million into research at the University of Waterloo to develop advanced cybersecurity and digital privacy resources. The funding will go towards supporting researchers in the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science as well as the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization at Waterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics.

“Collaborating with the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics and their pool of talented researchers will give us more brain power to continually develop Canadian talent to support the demands of the cybersecurity industry,” said David Fairman, Chief Information Security Officer at RBC. “This partnership is important to RBC as we’ll be able to leverage Waterloo’s unique capabilities in mathematical science as it applies to tackling increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks.”

The way attackers and hackers infiltrate computer networks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and security teams often work with old legacy hardware systems and across international borders to try and protect vital information. The need for stronger cybersecurity measures is immediate and important, and researchers will look to develop tactics to prepare for what’s known as the “post-quantum” threat.

This is a threat revolving around quantum computing. Though quantum computers are in the early stages now, they will soon be accessible to a lot of users, and their sheer power will making infiltrating older non-quantum systems very easy. RBC’s new lab at the University of Waterloo is a great location to deal with this threat; the schools Institute for Quantum Computing recently secured funding from the Canadian Space Agency to develop quantum encryption satellites. The university is well versed in what quantum systems are capable of and how to prep companies for the leap in computing power. 

Though the new RBC cybersecurity lab will be focused on protecting the financial sector and live within the William G Davis Computer Research Centre, the funding will support research in other areas too, including data0-driven software-defined security, privacy enhancing technologies, and post-quantum cryptography.

“The area of cybersecurity is highly technical and complex, but is essential for all aspects of modern society,” said Stephen Watt, dean of the faculty of mathematics at the University of Waterloo. “These technologies, from network protection to mathematical cryptography, are central to personal privacy online, safe national infrastructure and trustworthy commerce.”

Also included in the support is CryptoWorks21, an enhanced education program focused on post-quantum cryptosystems. It is led by Michele Mosca, co-founder of the Institute for Quantum Computing. RBC will sponsor the CryptoWorks Industry Day, a graduate student scholarship, a thesis prize, and support for professional teaching.

Cybersecurity id the latest initiative RBC is putting money into researching. Late last year, the massive Canadian bank announced plans to open a Borealis AI lab in Montreal that will look to pick up early signs of disconnected events around the world and try to see if they may have an impact on the North American markets.