Researchers are racing against time to develop encryption algorithms for quantum computers that don’t yet exist
(WashingtonPost) Joseph Marks with research by Aaron Schaffer together authored an article explaining the U.S. government’s efforts to protect US entities against future quantum computer hacks. IQT-News sumarizes their discussion below.
Marks and Schaffer explain to Washington Post readers: The U.S. government is readying a game plan to protect encryption against a super-powerful new generation of computers that don’t exist yet and aren’t expected for another 15 to 20 years. Even with the long head start, cryptographers will be racing against the clock to ensure as much encrypted information as possible remains hidden from prying eyes — including highly sensitive government communications.
The project, run by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), represents one of the longest-range efforts in cybersecurity — a discipline that typically measures threats in days and weeks rather than decades.
Government intelligence services are almost certainly scooping up their adversaries’ encrypted communications now so they might be able to decode them in the quantum future. That means the more quickly researchers can develop quantum-resistant encryption, the less likely that hoarded information is to be useful by the time quantum computers arrive.
“That’s a vulnerability that already exists today even if we don’t have quantum computers for another 15 years,” said Dustin Moody, a NIST mathematician who’s leading the project.
NIST researchers plan to release a list of encryption algorithms they believe can withstand decoding by quantum computers within the next few weeks, Moody told me. The exact date isn’t set yet.
Even after the algorithms are final, there’s still a risk.
–It could turn out once quantum computers are developed that they are capable of decoding encryption algorithms that developers believed they wouldn’t be.
–Or there could simply be a hackable flaw in one of the algorithms that it takes years to discover.
“The state of cryptography today is there’s no guarantee some brilliant person won’t find a new attack to break the system,” Moody said.
A lengthy testing and adoption process lowers those risks. But it also prolongs the time when adversaries can scoop up information that’s encrypted to a lower standard.
Sandra K. Helsel, Ph.D. has been researching and reporting on frontier technologies since 1990. She has her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.