One of the people participating in development of new quantum-proof algorithms is crypto specialist Helena Handschuh, a crypto specialist with Rambus was interviewed here to explain the threat quantum computing poses for cryptography. NOTE: Handschuh’s interview is second in this interview.
Quantum computing allows us to massively parallelize certain computations that we care about and that usually bring security to us. But in this case, the quantum computer might be able to break systems that we use every day, and that would not be so good.
TLS connections, HTTPS connections, and certificates use a crypto-primitive called “asymmetric cryptography.” These are algorithms that could be rather easily broken with quantum computers because these computers are able to find, let’s say, periodic behavior that usually gives us security.
The algorithms we use today are designed in such a way that the secret keys that they use will allow them to resist attacks for many, many decades. So we designed the sizes of the keys such that, you know, even with the entire computation power of the entire world, you couldn’t break them, you know, let’s say in 50 to 100 years. So that’s the idea.
Now the issue with quantum computers is that this time that would be hundreds of years potentially is broken down into just maybe a few days. That’s where the problem comes from.
Today, quantum computers are not yet able to break algorithms, which gives us some time.
Rambus — and other companies and other academic institutions out there are doing the same thing — is that we have submitted a candidate algorithm to a competition organized by NIST, which is the National Institute for Standards and Technology. This competition started a few years ago, end of 2017, and is currently in a third phase. So we’ve submitted an algorithm that is called “Three Bears” and that we hope will make it to the last round at least. We’re currently moved from the first round to the second round, and the next round will start approximately this summer. So we’re hoping to be able to propose a candidate that would withstand the competition part and the attacks that might be running on quantum computers.