Quantum Technologies and Real World Information Security Challenges

By Bruno Huttner, Quantum Safe Product Manager, ID Quantique

Most cyber security applications rely on a few cryptographic primitives, for both encryption and signature. These primitives are now known to be breakable by a Quantum Computer (QC), that is a computer operating according to the rules of quantum mechanics. The design and manufacture of such a computer is still a formidable tasks, which is expected to last for many years. However, a post by the NSA in 2015, which was very recently followed by a NIST report have brought a new sense of urgency to the matter.

Indeed, in view of the devastating effect the QC would have on our cryptographic systems, it is necessary to start thinking now about new ways to protect and authenticate data. Existing tapping techniques, in conjunction with almost unlimited storage abilities, allow malicious entities to gather and store incredible amounts of data. These encrypted data can be kept this way until the  quantum computer is ready,  and then subsequently decrypted. Therefore, data, which has to be kept secret for a long time, say tens of years, should already be encrypted in a quantum-safe manner. We need to prepare for the post-quantum era now.

There are two possible roads towards this goal. The first one is to keep algorithmic-based cryptography, but use different algorithms, known as Post–Quantum Algorithms (PQAs) or Quantum Resistant Algorithms (QRAs), which, we hope, will remain quantum-safe. The second one is to adopt an entirely different principle, and base some of our cryptographic primitives on physical methods. In this case, security does not depend on mathematical analysis, but on the laws of quantum mechanics. This is what is achieved by Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).

These two approaches are by no means exclusive. Each have different domains of application, and will most probably complement one another. Since QKD requires a physical infrastructure, it will be restricted to  large communication hubs, for example links between large data centres, such as the ones used for cloud infrastructure. In addition, as it is provably secure, QKD shall be used for high value data, which has to remain secret for a long period. However, QKD only deals with key distribution which is only one part of a quantum-resistant cryptosystem. QRAs, necessary for authentication, will also be used in links between end-users and communication infrastructure, for example mobile applications to antennas or telecom hubs. It could also be used for data with high privacy content, but shorter validity period.

Quantum Safe Security @ RSA 2016
Quantum technologies represent both a threat to current cyber security methods, and an asset to guarantee long-term cyber security in the post-quantum era. The “Quantum technologies and real world information security challenges” panel is the first of its kind, which will be presented at RSA Conference this year. The panellists have been chosen among real information security professionals from a variety of fields. The specific topics they will cover include:

  • The threat of the quantum computer against current cryptographic techniques.
  • The immediate and medium-term challenges faced by each industry that could be mitigated by quantum security approaches.
  • Different quantum solutions, the problems they can help address, and how they compare to the current approaches in use.
  • What are the perceived risks and weaknesses of Quantum Key Distribution solutions?
  • Discussions on any work / partnerships they have done in this area.

If you ever wondered whether you should start thinking about these issues, their stories are your own stories. This session will provide you with a clearer picture and possible action points for the future.

Session Details
Date: Friday,  March 4, 2016
Time: 10:10 AM
Venue: Moscone West, Room 2005

For more information about the session, click here.

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