At A Glance – Post-Quantum Cryptography

Protecting information in the age of quantum computers

We might not yet have fully entered the era of quantum computing, but the journey is well underway. Companies such as IBM, Google and D-Wave Systems have built functioning quantum machines, which – although they are not yet as powerful as classical computers – could one day leave them in the dust. With the arrival of incredibly powerful quantum computers in mind, security professionals need to find a way to protect systems and information from attack. Enter post-quantum cryptography, also known as quantum-safe or quantum-resistant cryptography.

Current encryption methods typically encode information using algorithms. Data can only be decrypted with the corresponding cryptography key, or by solving these complex algorithms – a process that could take classical machines quintillions of years to achieve. In a quantum world, however, traditional security measures will be easily decipherable by quantum computers, and we will no longer be able to depend upon the difficulty of solving such algorithms to protect information. Post-quantum cryptography therefore relies upon different kinds of mathematical problems that are resistant to quantum machines.

When it comes to the development of post-quantum cryptography, time is of the essence. Assuming that large scale quantum computers are feasible, they will one day be able to decrypt all of our current communications. It is important that encryption provides security for several years after it is made, so if we want present day cryptosystems to hold in the post-quantum era, we need to develop this technology now. Luckily, various companies and organisations are on the case. Several groups exist to promote post-quantum cryptography, including the NIST Post-Quantum Project, and the Open Quantum Safe project, which promote collaboration, peer review and standardisation to further the post-quantum agenda.

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