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Cybersecurity Coalition for Quantum Resilience

Martin Walker
Sep 28, 2023 at 05:41 pm

IBM Quantum and Microsoft, global tech juggernauts, have recently forged an impactful alliance, strategically banding together to confront the cryptographic challenges presented by the burgeoning field of quantum computing. In this endeavor, they have teamed up with the esteemed not-for-profit research powerhouse, MITRE, the cryptography stalwart PQShield based in the United Kingdom, the innovative sibling enterprise of Google known as SandboxAQ, and the distinguished academic institution, the University of Waterloo.

The focal point of their collaborative effort revolves around post-quantum cryptography (PQC), a crucial aspect aimed at mitigating the potential threats anticipated from the rapid advancement of quantum computers. At the heart of contemporary cryptographic systems lie intricate mathematical quandaries, meticulously designed to thwart any nefarious attempts at decryption.

The resilience of these encryption mechanisms against traditional computing methods is nothing short of formidable, rendering cracking or circumventing them an almost insurmountable challenge. Experts posit that it would take an astonishing 300 trillion years for a binary computer system to break a 1,024-bit or 2,048-bit RSA key.

RSA, an acronym derived from the names of its pioneering computer scientists, has long held its position as the gold standard in encryption.

However, in theory, a quantum computer equipped with the right hardware and architecture could significantly truncate the time needed to crack RSA and analogous encryption schemes, potentially achieving this feat within mere weeks, days, or even hours.

As eloquently stated in a press release from MITRE:

The preparation for transitioning to a post-quantum cryptographic landscape entails multifaceted endeavors, encompassing the development of algorithmic standards, the creation of robust, trustworthy, and efficient algorithm implementations, and the seamless integration of these novel post-quantum algorithms into existing cryptographic libraries and protocols.

Technological domains heavily reliant on mathematical encryption, such as blockchain and cryptocurrency systems, stand vulnerable to decryption attacks from the hypothetical quantum computers of tomorrow. Yet, the timeline for when these potential threats might materialize remains shrouded in uncertainty.

A comprehensive study conducted in 2022 meticulously calculated that a quantum computer wielding a staggering 300 million qubits (a standardized measure of quantum computational potential) would be required to swiftly breach the fortified defenses of the Bitcoin blockchain. This figure stands in stark contrast to the current state of affairs, where cutting-edge quantum computers merely average a little over 100 qubits.

Nonetheless, in light of the architectural advancements detailed in that seminal paper, the requisites could be vastly altered through more sophisticated qubit configurations, chipsets, and optimization algorithms, exponentially reducing the stipulated 300-million-qubit threshold. Consequently, the global technology community is increasingly pivoting towards the adoption of quantum-safe encryption.

In 2022, the distinguished National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) meticulously sifted through various proposed post-quantum encryption algorithms — CRYSTALS-Kyber, CRYSTALS-Dilithium, SPHINCS+, and Falcon — singling them out as prospective candidates for establishing a robust PQC-safe encryption standard.

Fast forward to August 24, 2023, NIST triumphantly announced the formal acceptance and standardization of three of these algorithms, with Falcon slated to follow suit in the ensuing year, 2024.

Armed with the validation and (for the most part) standardization of these pioneering algorithms, the coalition stands poised to embark on its noble mission. This initiative harnesses the collective wealth of expertise and hands-on experience amassed by its members, directing their efforts towards orchestrating a seamless transition from the prevailing cryptographic landscape to the promising realm of post-quantum encryption, particularly critical for institutions of paramount importance, including government bodies, banking institutions, telecommunications networks, and transportation services.

Read more: Coinbase Expansion: Perpetual Futures on Horizon

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