Will Hybrid Cryptography Protect Us from the Quantum Threat?

By Roberta Faux, Director of Advance Cryptography, BlackHorse Solutions

mitigating quantum threat

Our new white paper explains the pros and cons of hybrid cryptography. The CSA Quantum-Safe Security Working Group has produced a new primer on hybrid cryptography. This paper, “Mitigating the Quantum Threat with Hybrid Cryptography,” is aimed at helping non-technical corporate executives understand how to potentially address the threat of quantum computers on an organization’s infrastructure. Topics covered include:

–Types of hybrids
–Cost of hybrids
–Who needs a hybrid
–Caution about hybrids

The quantum threat

Quantum computers are already here. Well, at least tiny ones are here. Scientists are hoping to solve the scaling issues needed to build large-scale quantum computers in the next 10 years, perhaps. There are many exciting applications for quantum computing, but there is also one glaring threat: Large-scale quantum computers will render vulnerable nearly all of today’s cryptography.

Standards organizations prepare

The good news is that there already exist cryptographic algorithms believed to be unbreakable—even against large-scale quantum computers. These cryptographic algorithms are called “quantum resistant.” Standards organizations worldwide, including ETSI, IETF, NIST, ISO, and X9, have been scrambling to put guidance into place, but the task is daunting.

Quantum-resistant cryptography is based on complex underlying mathematical problems, such as the following:

  • Shortest-Vector Problem in a lattice
  • Syndrome Decoding Problem
  • Solving systems of multivariate equations
  • Constructing isogenies between supersingular elliptic curves

For such problems, there are no known attacks–even with a future large-scale quantum computer. There are many quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms, each with numerous trade-offs (e.g., computation time, key size, security). No single algorithm satisfies all possible requirements; many factors need to be considered in order to determine the ideal match for a given environment.

Cryptographic migration

There is a growing concern about how and when to migrate from the current ubiquitously used “classical cryptography” of yesterday and today to the newer quantum-resistant cryptography of today and tomorrow. Historically, cryptographic migrations require at least a decade for large enterprises. Moreover, as quantum-resistant algorithms tend to have significantly larger key sizes, migration to quantum-resistant systems will likely involve updating both software and protocols. Consequently, live migrations will prove a huge challenge.

Cryptographic hybrids

A cryptographic hybrid scheme uses two cryptographic schemes to accomplish the same function. For instance, a hybrid system might digitally sign a message with one cryptographic scheme and then re-sign the same message with a second scheme. The benefit is that the message will remain secure even if one of the two cryptographic schemes becomes compromised. Hence, many are turning to hybrid solutions. As discussed in the paper, there are several flavors of hybrids:

  • A classical scheme and a quantum-resistant scheme
  • Two quantum-resistant schemes
  • A classical scheme with quantum key distribution
  • A classical asymmetric scheme along with a symmetric scheme

However, adopting a quantum-resistant solution prematurely may be even riskier.

Hybrid drawbacks

Hybrids come at the cost of increased bandwidth, code management, and interoperability challenges. Cryptographic implementations, in general, can be quite tricky. The threat of a flawed hybrid implementation would potentially be even more dangerous than a quantum computer, as security breaches are more commonly the result of a flawed implementation than an inherently weak cryptosystem. Even a small mistake in configuration or coding may result in a diminishment of some or all of the cryptographic security. There needs to be very careful attention paid to any hybrid cryptographic implementation in order to ensure that it does not make us less secure.

Do you need a hybrid?

Some business models will need to begin migration before standards are in place. So, who needs to consider a hybrid as a mitigation to the quantum threat? Two types of organizations are at high risk, namely, those who:

  • need to keep secrets for a very long time, and/or
  • lack the ability to change cryptographic infrastructure quickly.

An organization that has sensitive data should be concerned if an adversary could potentially collect that data now in encrypted form and decrypt it later whenever quantum computing capabilities become available. This is a threat facing governments, law firms, pharmaceutical companies, and many others. Also, organizations that rely on firmware or hardware will need significant development time to update and replace dependencies on firmware or hardware. These would include industries working in aerospace, automotive connectivity, data processing, telecommunications, and organizations that use hardware security modules.


The migration to quantum resistance is going to be a challenge. It is vital that corporate leaders plan for this now. Organizations need to start asking the following questions:

  • How is your organization dependent on cryptography?
  • How long does your data need to be secure?
  • How long will it take you to migrate?
  • Have you ensured you fully understand the ramifications of migration?

Well-informed planning will be key for a smooth transition to quantum-resistant security. Organizations need to start to conduct experiments now to determine unforeseen impacts. Importantly, organizations are advised to seek expert advice so that their migration doesn’t introduce new vulnerabilities.

As you prepare your organization to secure against future threats from quantum computers, make sure to do the following:

  • Identify reliance on cryptography
  • Determine risks
  • Understand options
  • Perform a proof of concept
  • Make a plan

Mitigating the Quantum Threat with Hybrid Cryptography offers more insights into how hybrids will help address the threat of quantum computers. Download the full paper today.

What Will Happen If Encryption Used to Protect Data in Corporations Can Be Broken?

By Edward Chiu, Emerging Cybersecurity Technologist, Chevron

Preparing Enterprises for the Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Threats

While the development of quantum computers is still at a nascent stage, its potential in solving problems not feasible with classical computers draws interest from many industries.

On one hand, Volkswagen is researching using quantum computers to help optimize traffic, and researchers at Roche are investigating the use of quantum computing in biomedical applications.

On the other, a quantum computer powerful enough to run Shor’s algorithm poses a severe threat to asymmetric encryption (also known as public key encryption), which in turn plays a vital role in data security. The use of asymmetric encryption is pervasive and transcends industries and companies, thus quantum computing’s impact is far reaching.

Preparing Enterprises for the Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Threats” is a new paper published by the CSA Quantum-Safe Security Working Group that provides an overview of the cybersecurity risks posed by quantum computing and encourages cybersecurity professionals and decisionmakers to begin planning now as the consequences of inaction are dire.

The paper illustrates the dark side of quantum computing and its impact to cryptography, how asymmetric encryption can be broken, and what practical steps enterprise decision-makers can take now to prepare for the emerging threat. Topics covered in the paper include:

  • What is quantum computing?
  • Impact of quantum computing on cryptography
  • The time to prepare is now
  • Preparation steps for a post-quantum era

Impact on asymmetric encryption

Asymmetric encryption is the cornerstone of data security on the Internet. Whenever someone uses a browser to log in to their bank account, asymmetric encryption known as RSA is being used. In 1994, MIT mathematicians formulated an algorithm that provides exponential speedup in the factorization of large prime numbers. A quantum computer powerful enough to run Shor’s algorithm and crack mainstream RSA cryptosystems poses catastrophic consequence to data security.

Hybrid cryptography

In recent years, cryptographers have been experimenting with the use of hybrid cryptography to mitigate quantum threats. Hybrid cryptography refers to the use of two or more cryptographic schemes, an example of which is a X.509 digital certificate that has two signatures—one classical and the other quantum-resistant. The goal is to provide resistance to both classical and quantum cryptanalytic attacks.

What should IT decision-makers do now?

What can we do now while waiting for the arrival of a quantum computer capable of breaking encryption, an event sometimes referred to as the year to quantum (Y2Q)? IT decision-makers should begin to lay out an actionable plan to prepare for the Y2Q now, using this paper as an actionable guideline.

Download the full paper now.

New and Unique Security Challenges in Native Cloud, Hybrid and Multi-cloud Environments

By Hillary Baron, Research Analyst, Cloud Security Alliance

cloud security complexity

CSA’s latest survey, Cloud Security Complexity: Challenges in Managing Security in Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Environments, examines information security concerns in a complex cloud environment.

Commissioned by AlgoSec, the survey of 700 IT and security professionals aims to analyze and better understand the state of adoption and security in current hybrid cloud and multi-cloud security environments, including public cloud, private cloud, or use of more than one public cloud platform.

Topics covered in the report include:

  • Types of cloud platforms currently in use
  • Proportion of workloads actively in the cloud
  • New workloads expected to be moved into the cloud
  • Anticipated risks and concerns about potential migrations to the cloud
  • Challenges managing security after adopting cloud technologies
  • Methods for addressing these security challenges
  • Challenges related to network or application outages
  • Methods for and results of addressing outages and security incidents

Key findings in cloud computing complexity

The survey illustrates the need within our industry to better address these issues before adopting cloud technologies in order to create practical and manageable network environments–rather than simply putting out fires as they arise after deploying new technologies. It also highlights the need to maintain cloud service-specific knowledge during the growth of the service with the aim of staying current with new features and functionality.

Specifically, the survey found that:

  • Cloud creates configuration and visibility problems:  When asked to rank on a scale of 1 to 4 those aspects of managing security in public clouds they found challenging, respondents cited proactively detecting misconfigurations and security risks as the biggest challenge (3.35), closely followed by a lack of visibility into the entire cloud estate (3.21). Audit preparation and compliance (3.16), holistic management of cloud and on-prem environments (3.1), and managing multiple clouds (3.09) rounded out the top five.
  • Human error and configuration mistakes are the biggest causes of outages: Eleven percent (11.4%) of respondents reported a cloud security incident in the past year, and 42.5 percent had a network or application outage.  The two leading causes were operational / human errors in management of devices (20%), device configuration changes (15%) and device faults (12%).
  • Cloud compliance and legal concerns are serious worries: Compliance and legal challenges were identified as major concerns when moving into the cloud (57% regulatory compliance; 44% legal concerns).
  • Security is the major concern in cloud projects: Eighty-one percent of cloud users said they encountered significant security concerns. Concerns over risks of data losses and leakage were also high with users when deploying in the cloud (cited by 62%), closely followed by regulatory compliance concerns (57%), and integration with the rest of the organizations’ IT environment (49%).

As cloud environments become more complex, we can expect to see the trends identified in this survey continue. Unsurprising then that it will be more important than ever for IT professionals to have visibility into available resources, understand cloud provider security tools, create personalized plans for securing their organization, and evaluate staff knowledge to ensure security of these complex cloud environments.

Download the full report to learn more about Cloud Security Complexity: Challenges in Managing Security in Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Environments.

Editor’s Note: Sponsors of CSA research are CSA Corporate Members, who support the findings of the research project but have no added influence on content development nor editing rights. The report and its findings are vendor-agnostic and allow for global participation.

The 12 Most Critical Risks for Serverless Applications

By Sean Heide, CSA Research Analyst and Ory Segal, Israel Chapter Board Member

12 Most Critical Risks for Serverless Applications 2019 report cover

When building the idea and thought process around implementing a serverless structure for your company, there are a few key risks one must take into account to ensure the architecture is gathering proper controls when speaking to security measures and how to adopt a program that can assist in maintaining the longevity of applications. Though this is a list of 12 highlighted risks that are deemed the most occurring, there should always be the idea that other potential risks need to be treated just the same.

Serverless architectures (also referred to as “FaaS,” or Function as a Service) enable organizations to build and deploy software and services without maintaining or provisioning any physical or virtual servers. Applications made using serverless architectures are suitable for a wide range of services and can scale elastically as cloud workloads grow. As a result of this wide array of off-site application structures, it opens up a string of potential attack surfaces that take advantage of vulnerabilities spanning from the use of multiple APIs and HTTP.

From a software development perspective, organizations adopting serverless architectures can focus instead on core product functionality, rather than the underlying operating system, application server or software runtime environment. By developing applications using serverless architectures, users relieve themselves from the daunting task of continually applying security patches for the underlying operating system and application servers. Instead, these tasks are now the responsibility of the serverless architecture provider. In serverless architectures, the serverless provider is responsible for securing the data center, network, servers, operating systems, and their configurations. However, application logic, code, data, and application-layer configurations still need to be robust—and resilient to attacks. These are the responsibility of application owners.

While the comfort and elegance of serverless architectures is appealing, they are not without their drawbacks. In fact, serverless architectures introduce a new set of issues that must be considered when securing such applications, including increased attack surface, attack surface complexity, inadequate security testing, and traditional security protections such as firewalls.

Serverless application risks by the numbers

Today, many organizations are exploring serverless architectures, or just making their first steps in the serverless world. In order to help them become successful in building robust, secure and reliable applications, the Cloud Security Alliance’s Israel Chapter has drafted the “The 12 Most Critical Risks for Serverless Applications 2019.” This new paper enumerates what top industry practitioners and security researchers with vast experience in application security, cloud and serverless architectures believe to be the current top risks, specific to serverless architectures

Organized in order of risk factor, with SAS-1 being the most critical, the list breaks down as the following:

  • SAS-1: Function Event Data Injection
  • SAS-2: Broken Authentication
  • SAS-3: Insecure Serverless Deployment Configuration
  • SAS-4: Over-Privileged Function Permissions & Roles
  • SAS-5: Inadequate Function Monitoring and Logging
  • SAS-6: Insecure Third-Party Dependencies
  • SAS-7: Insecure Application Secrets Storage
  • SAS-8: Denial of Service & Financial Resource Exhaustion
  • SAS-9: Serverless Business Logic Manipulation
  • SAS-10: Improper Exception Handling and Verbose Error Messages
  • SAS-11: Obsolete Functions, Cloud Resources and Event Triggers
  • SAS-12: Cross-Execution Data Persistency

In developing this security awareness and education guide, researchers pulled information from such sources as freely available serverless projects on GitHub and other open source repositories; automated source code scanning of serverless projects using proprietary algorithms; and data provided by our partners, individual contributors and industry practitioners.

While the document provides information about what are believed to be the most prominent security risks for serverless architectures, it is by no means an exhaustive list. Interested parties should also check back often as this paper will be updated and enhanced based on community input along with research and analysis of the most common serverless architecture risks.

Thanks must also be given to the following contributors, who were involved in the development of this document: Ory Segal, Shaked Zin, Avi Shulman, Alex Casalboni, Andreas N, Ben Kehoe, Benny Bauer, Dan Cornell, David Melamed, Erik Erikson, Izak Mutlu, Jabez Abraham, Mike Davies, Nir Mashkowski, Ohad Bobrov, Orr Weinstein, Peter Sbarski, James Robinson, Marina Segal, Moshe Ferber, Mike McDonald, Jared Short, Jeremy Daly, and Yan Cui.