What are quantum secure public key algorithms

Building a bridge between old and new encryption Setting up for post-quantum cryptography

June 13, 2018

Quantum computers shine through their enormous computing power, which in theory can also be used to asymmetric encryption to crack. In practice, that should be the case RSA algorithm be ready in 2026. Why do companies rely on the Post-quantum cryptography Should prepare, looking at the risk factors shows. In addition, it will take a while until there is a standard for algorithms that can Quantum Computer Attack resist. The logical consequence is therefore to work on an adaptable and future-proof security environment today.

Only for tomorrow

A quantum computer that is able to break encryption methods is not yet generally available on the market today. There is therefore no immediate danger for companies and public institutions that rely on asymmetrical crypto processes, for example. They include the widely used RSA algorithm, which uses a public and a secret key for encryption or digital signing. Its security is based on the Multiplication of prime numbers. 2048 bit long RSA key become according to IBM only in Year 2026 come under pressure - due to quantum computers.

Form with the new generation of supercomputers Quantum bits the smallest unit of information that can take on the values ​​0, 1 or a value somewhere in between - all at the same time. Only a change in state can be measured with special quantum algorithms - and used for complex arithmetic operations such as the decomposition of prime number products in the RSA key.

A quantum computer goes the possible Solutions in parallel through, which is why it comes to the result in seconds. Successful traffic simulation tests confirm the great potential of the systems. The ability to quickly analyze and process huge amounts of data can also improve financial transactions, utility networks, IoT solutions and countless other application scenarios.

This enormous computing power also threatens symmetric encryption techniques such as AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and SHA (Secure Hash Algorithm), which can lose half of their protection in an attack. Quantum computers therefore lead us to the need for one Post-quantum cryptography (PQC) in mind. PQC processes are understood by experts as crypto systems that run on conventional computers and mobile devices in order to withstand quantum computer attacks. The concentrated computing power of quantum bit processors has to come to nothing in such a scenario - a mature standard for PQC processes does not yet exist.

Risk assessment

Virtually all commercially available quantum computers are currently based on the Superconductivity technologythat along with the necessary Vibration protection drives the purchase price to a double-digit million sum. Given the level of investment and the largely accepted assumption that mass deployment will begin in ten to fifteen years at the earliest, there is no acute risk. But there are some factors that will increase the risk of a quantum computer attack in the next few years.

Cyber ​​criminals, hackers and data spies could Quantum computers from the cloud can be used to crack cryptographic keys and thus access encrypted data. IBM and D-Wave Systems already offer access to quantum systems via the cloud. Google and other pioneers in quantum technology will jump on the cloud bandwagon. A cloud service does not automatically lead to criminal misuse of the technology, but this possibility cannot be completely ruled out.

The same applies Corporate data centers, Research institutions and authorities, where quantum systems will be used more and more. What quantum computers can do will also interest the secret services of all countries that are already particularly active in collecting data. The annual report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution lists such activities. Conventionally encrypted data is easy prey.

The lack of skilled workers in the field of IT security and the reluctance to invest in encryption technology are also worrying. In Germany, these expenditures have not increased to the same extent in recent years as the requirements to protect data. For example, spread IoT and Industry 4.0 applications, which is why more data must be transmitted in encrypted form. On the other hand, encryption will be a weak point in the future, as such systems and products will often do their job for ten years or more in vehicles, aircraft, machines, facilities in power plants and in water supply, in satellites and networked building services systems.

Companies should therefore determine how long their information assets need to be protected and how they have been doing it so far. It takes a lot of effort to collect and catalog the data as well as the Encryption components to be modified so that they are quantum safe. That's how it is done American National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) assumes that it will publish algorithms in 2023 that are resistant to attacks with quantum computers.

Crypto-agile solutions

Companies that work with Public key infrastructures (PKI) working to identify and authenticate their IoT devices will depend on using keys based on current and future quantum-secure algorithms in parallel for a while. A cryptography solution must adapt to new requirements that arise Post-quantum encryption solutions or otherwise result in, have it adjusted.

Crypto-agility is therefore in demand. The effort that companies have to put in to achieve this ability persists with the use of sophisticated ones Hardware security modules (HSM) and Software development kits (SDK) in the frame. In this way, companies can build the necessary bridge between old and new encryption technologies.

Microsoft released a Application scenario a post-quantum cryptography solution with HSM presented. It is based on the Picnic signature process from Microsoft and the HSM solution from Utimaco. There came two software components for use:

• a host application on a Windows PC
• Firmware modules from Microsoft in an HSM from the SecurityServer Se50 LAN V4 series from Utimaco.

Using these elements, Microsoft succeeded in a research project quantum safe algorithms, build a public key infrastructure with signatures that quantum computers cannot compromise. The new keys and signatures used, which were generated by a previously new type of algorithm, were no problem for the HSM. A great advantage emerged that it turned out to be Firmware has external providers such as Microsoft installed on the systems. This will make it possible in the future, if necessary new cryptographic algorithms to implement.

Malte Pollmann

has been a member of the Utimaco Management Board since 2008 and CEO since 2011. Previously, he was Product Director and Business Area Manager at Lycos Europe NV (Bertelsmann). In addition to a master’s degree in physics from the Universities of Paderborn and Kaiserslautern, Malte Pollmann enjoyed training in general management at INSEAD in Fontainebleau. Parallel to his work at Utimaco, he is also on the supervisory board of the "International School of IT Security" isits AG, Bochum.

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