(NextGov) The cybersecurity community is already hedging its bets against a future when digital secrets are knowable to anyone with the right hacking chops and a couple dozen qubits. Timing is of the essence when fighting quantum-enabled threats, according to Dr. Deborah Frincke, director of the National Security Agency’s research branch. She said it’s time for the government to start adapting its digital security methods for the future.
NSA Waiting for NIST Competition to Develop ‘Quantum-Resistant’ Algorithms
In 2015, the NSA announced it would begin exploring encryption schemes that could withstand an assault by a quantum computer, and in 2016 the National Institute of Standards and Technology kicked off a competition to develop such “quantum-resistant” algorithms. NIST received nearly 70 submissions to the competition, and after more than a year of testing and analysis, researchers in January announced 26 algorithms would advance to the second round.
Frincke and her team are closely following its progression. Frincke noted it’s important cryptographers don’t rush their work. Quantum computers may pose a substantial threat to digital security, she said, but deploying new encryption schemes too quickly could create additional own risks. “There are two ways you could make a mistake with quantum-resistant encryption: One is you could jump to the algorithm too soon and the other is you jump to the algorithm too late,” she said.
“It’s very important that people wait for NIST to do its due diligence,” Frincke said.