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How to keep the secrets of the quantum era

Met is not In many cases, a little daunting math can avoid disasters. However, a researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (nist) I did it little by little. Last week, after years of analysis, they marked approval for several equations. This will eventually save petabytes of sensitive data from prying eyes.

The existing cryptographic standards that underpin almost all online information exchanges are a bit of awkward math designed to make it nearly impossible for today’s computers to crack without proper arithmetic keys.However nistScientists are not pondering today’s machines.They are worried about the next era Quantum computer..

They take advantage of the strangeness of the quantum world to perform calculations in a radically different way than those used in traditional computers. This brings great theoretical benefits to a small number of problem types. This includes identifying a large number of prime factors (numbers, numbers that are divisible by themselves, and numbers that are divisible by only one and can be multiplied to get the number of problems), and the calculation of the properties of the points above. increase. A function called an elliptic curve.

Both are widely used in encryption. rsaFactorization-based algorithms are used with elliptic curve cryptography in most Internet connections, virtual private networks, messaging services such as WhatsApp and Signal, and the anonymous web browser Tor. But both will collapse against a sufficiently sophisticated quantum computer that runs Shor’s algorithm developed by the American mathematician Peter Shor in 1995.

Accumulation of troubles

When to reach this threshold is an open issue. But progress seems to be accelerating. With some of the world’s largest companies and many lucky startups and college spin-offs in bloom, hardware (real computers), error correction (to provide fidelity), and software (quantum computer calculations). We are working on an algorithm that has been tuned to take advantage of). It now seems unlikely that it will turn out to be impossible, unrealistic, or too expensive to build them. This means that “cryptographically related” quantum machines will probably emerge and the old defenses will collapse. According to an expert survey conducted in 2021, the majority will be by 2036. rsa-2048 is an existing industry standard cryptographic protocol that uses 2,048 bit long keys and can be broken within 24 hours.

This means that future developments of quantum computers have worrisome implications today.The most imminent threat arises from “collect now and decrypt later” attacks where encrypted data is collected. collect For quantum decoding if technology allows. Most of today’s internet chatter is unlikely to be of interest to hackers in 2040, for example, but much data such as medical records, national security communications, or technical details of long-lived infrastructure. May maintain its value until. And today, the data sent around Willinily doesn’t have to be strategically relevant to hackers, given the impregnability, to pose confusion and risk to the sending company or official.

Colin Soutar, managing director of consulting firm Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory, is similar to the year 2000 problem. This was expected to cause confusion when computers with software that encodes the year as double-digit values ​​went from 99 to 00 at the turn of the millennium and suddenly returned a century ago. Later regarded as a storm in a bowl, only enthusiastic upgrades of the world’s software prevented digital disasters.

The analogy is not perfect.With buildup y2kThe scale of the problem was unknown, as the fear of the year 2000 problem was also known. But the timeline was certain.For y2q qThe situation is reversed — as it is sometimes called the quantum ending. However, in both cases the message is the same. Act now or pay later.

One way to move forward is to deploy what is known as quantum key distribution and use quantum power defenses against quantum power attacks. However, this requires an expensive kit and a dedicated connection. Governments and large corporations may control it, but small fry will find it difficult.

A more promising approach is to identify a new class of mathematical problems that even quantum machines will have difficulty decoding. this is. .. ..was nistTask. In 2016, we started a contest to find suitable algorithms for “post-quantum cryptography” (pqc), There were 82 applications from 25 countries. After three rounds of vulnerability screening and brave investigation by an independent cryptographer, four winning techniques and four backup approaches emerged.

All award winners were developed by a consortium of academic and commercial researchers.What is called Kyber is the brainchild of a group called Kyber. crystal (Cipher Suite of Algebraic Lattice)-This name refers to abstract mathematical grouping in number theory. The remaining three winners are interested in digital signatures that ensure that the sender can verify their identity. Also use two grids: crystal-With dilithium Falcon (Fast Fourier lattice-based compact signature ntruAn acronym that is said to be an abbreviation for the mathematicalist “R” Us).

The fourth winner is Sphinx+. Because it doesn’t use an algebraic grid, it has won partially because it’s worth it if that approach fails in the field. Its encryption mode is based on the hash function, which is a mathematical technique often used in data compression.

nist There are four more options waiting in the wing that will be judged in the fourth round. All of them use different mathematical concepts again to provide decipherability.

According to competition-leader Dustin Moody, it is expected that it will take until 2024 to code the winning algorithm into actionable software. Brian LaMacchia, head of the security and encryption team at Microsoft Research, said pqc Migrate fast enough. However, the White House issued a National Security Memorandum of Understanding in May, instructing federal agencies to move and direct cryptography. nist Encourage the private sector to do the same.

The sense of threat is increasing. Soutar says companies have already begun to approach Deloitte with the goal of keeping them safe. eyAnother consulting firm also emphasizes that it’s time to move to pqc..For this purpose, both parties have a partnership with the sandbox.aq, A spin-out from Alphabet wanting to commercialize post-quantum cryptography, chaired by Eric Schmidt, one of Google’s former bosses. After spending five years in “Stealth Mode”, these partnerships were announced in March.

They are not alone. Mount Sinai Health System, a medical institution that operates eight hospital complexes in New York and employs 43,000 people, is another sandbox.aqClient. As Mount Sinai’s Chief Information Officer Kirstin Myers observes, if sensitive patient data held by an organization is exposed, it may constitute an “existential event” for the organization.With sandboxaqAid, she wants to avoid that threat.

Of course, some nist The algorithm itself is cracked. However, while the new post-quantum algorithm is not guaranteed, so is today’s algorithm.With Kyber, a cryptographer at Radboud University in the Netherlands Sphinx+ Therefore, we believe that the future is a hybrid approach. Instead of abandoning the existing encryption, he proposes to keep the algorithm currently in use and add another post-quantum level. ■■

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How to keep the secrets of the quantum era

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