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17 Jan 2023

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The Era of Quantum-Safe Cryptography Dawns

The branches of mathematics and computer science involving computational complexity theory are front and center in contemporary efforts in seeking the holy grail of attack-proof cryptography. The apparent impending rise of quantum computing as moving from labs into practical uses is focusing these efforts even more sharply.

As a new report from the IBM Institute of Business Value puts it, “Quantum computing poses an existential risk to the classical computer encryption protocols that enable virtually all digital transactions.” The report further states, “Over the next several years, widespread data encryption protocols, such as public key cryptography (PKC) standards like RSA, could become vulnerable.”

But wait, it gets worse than that. Following what's become known as the “harvest now, decrypt later” approach, criminal syndicates and maleficent state actors may already be attacking “any classically encrypted communication...potentially already exposing to exfiltration, with the intention of harvesting that data once quantum decryption solutions are viable.”

Another New Era Dawns
Thus, we've entered an age of “quantum-safe cryptography.” IBM states that three of its approaches to the problem have been accepted by a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) initiative to create and approve cybersecurity protocols to respond to quantum-computing threats.

Mathematical decision problems, which create scenarios involving thorny number-set integration problems, working with lattice frameworks, and building upon established cryptography protocols have all been put to bear down on the challenges presented by quantum computers.

The IBM report warns that we're only at the beginning of meeting these challenges, and urges all members of the tech community to get plugged in. The report's authors write, “Because standards and practices are still evolving, the path forward will be discovery-driven. To expedite insights and the development of leading practices, leaders need to understand multiple viewpoints and priorities. Consortiums and standards bodies, ecosystems, and partnerships both across industries and with external service providers are the most efficient ways to engage with subject-matter experts in quantum-safe cryptography.”

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