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article imageNew cryptography required to protect users from quantum computers

By Tim Sandle     Sep 14, 2017 in Technology
Quantum computers promise unparalleled computer power and data analysis. However, they also pose a significant risk to how the Internet is currently configured in terms of security and privacy according to the Eindhoven University of Technology.
The dawning era of quantum computers, expected sometime in 2025, requires technologists to speedily develop new cryptographic techniques, according to new research. This warning comes from Dr. Tanja Lange (Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands) and Dr. Daniel J. Bernstein (University of Illinois at Chicago, USA).
Quantum computers will work on the basis of quantum-mechanical properties. This means these powerful machines will be able to solve many problems very quickly. While the benefits will include calculating models for farmers in turns of weather forecasts; developing new medicines; and for fintech applications, there are some downsides. One concern with the advanced computing power is with the ability of quantum computers to break through almost any code or security setting. Most concerning of all is with a certain quantum algorithm called Shor's algorithm, used for integer factorization. This algorithm can break all cryptographic techniques that are currently used worldwide.
Today there are two powerful protection mechanisms in place for the world’s most sensitive digital data: the Rivest-Shamir-Adleman-system and Elliptic-curve-cryptography. The former was invented by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman in 1977, RSA is an algorithm for public-key cryptography. RSA works on the basis of a public and private key. Elliptic Curve Cryptography is a newer development and it promises stronger security, increased performance, yet shorter key lengths (ideal for the increasingly mobile world – a 256-bit ECC key equates to the same security as 3,072-bit RSA key). As things stand with current computers these codes are near impossible to crack; however, a quantum computer, the researchers contend, could crack either within a few hours.
This puts a range of data at risk, according to Tanja Lange, such as private data, bank and health records, and also state secrets. This places pressure on cryptographers to come up with something new, something that quantum computers will have difficulty breaking. While progress has been slow, she notes: "Fairly recently we're seeing an uptake of post-quantum cryptography in the security agencies, e.g., the NSA, and companies start demanding solutions."
Lange is working with eleven universities and companies to come up with new security solutions. This is backed by 3.9 million euro funding from the European Commission. The new warning is published in the journal Nature. The peer reviewed paper is headed “Post-quantum cryptography.”
For a related quantum computing news troy, please see the article "Will you be able to trust a quantum computer?"
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