(GCN) The National Institute of Standards and Technology has been working to identify and standardize new quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms. This past January, NIST announced a narrowed-down list of 26 algorithms for potential standardization, with plans to evaluate and analyze these algorithms in real-world settings over the remainder of the year. These quantum-resistant algorithms will need to work on systems of all sizes — from large computers to smart phones to small internet-of-things devices.
Quantum-resistant algorithms are rooted in quantum mechanics and developed with computational capabilities much greater than the factoring-based models built on mathematical principles, just continuing to build bigger encryption keys is not enough to safeguard data. The very basis of our approach to encryption must change.
Protecting data will involve implementing NIST-approved quantum-resistant algorithms on existing classical computers and reencrypting all agency data with those algorithms. Aside from the complexity of the technology, setting the standards for quantum-resistant algorithms is still in the early stages. Sticking to NIST-approved algorithms, therefore, is the best bet.
Taking preventive action today, before quantum computers are routinely commercially available, will prevent agencies from putting mission-critical data at risk.