(IBM.com) IBM’s Research teams in Switzerland and IBM tape developers based in Tucson, Arizona, have been building something which has never been built before to address a risk that may not materialize for another decade or more.
The risk comes from quantum advantage, the point when a quantum computer can perform some particular computation significantly faster than a classical computer. The challenge we faced, develop a quantum computing safe tape drive, because at the current rate of progress in quantum computing, it is expected that data protected by the asymmetric encryption methods used today may become insecure.
State of the art storage technologies, such as magnetic tape drives, use a combination of symmetric and asymmetric encryption to ensure that the data they store remains secure. However, in the future, the security of today’s asymmetric encryption techniques will very likely be broken by advances in quantum computing.
At the current rate of progress in quantum computing, it is expected that asymmetric encryption may become insecure within the next 10-30 years. While this seems rather far in the future, tape systems are often used to archive data for many years which is why it’s important to begin implementing quantum computing-safe solutions now to provide clients sufficient time to migrate to this new technology before their data becomes vulnerable.
In collaboration with several academic and commercial partners including: ENS Lyon, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica and Radboud University, IBM researchers have developed two quantum resistant cryptographic primitives based this work: Kyber, a secure key encapsulation mechanism and Dilithium, a secure digital signature algorithm. These two algorithms make up the “Cryptographic Suite for Algebraic Lattices” IBM calls “CRYSTALS”.
The new IBM quantum computing-safe tape drive prototype is based on a state-of-the-art IBM TS1160 tape drive and uses both Kyber and Dilithium in combination with symmetric AES-256 encryption to enable the world’s first quantum computing-safe tape drive. The new algorithms are implemented as part of the tape drive’s firmware and could be provided to customers as a firmware upgrade for existing tape drives and/or included in the firmware of future generations of tape drives.

Magnetic tape has a long history of leadership in storage security and is an essential technology for protecting and preserving data.

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