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Securing Today's Data Against Tomorrow's Quantum Computers

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Canadian firm D-Wave sells a working quantum computer.

Microsoft researchers are working to conceive and develop encryption upgrades to anticipate the potential for decryption of quantum computing.

Credit: D-Wave

Quantum computers are still more aspiration than reality at this point, but Microsoft researchers consider it vital that encryption upgrades be conceived and developed now to anticipate quantum computing's decryption potential.

"Given that scalable quantum computers are under development, it is crucial to prepare," argues Microsoft researcher Krysta Svore. She notes it can take 10 years or longer for a new cryptographic algorithm or "primitive" to be properly tested out and widely implemented. "There is an urgent need to determine other primitives now," Svore says.

A research team from Microsoft, NXP, and Queensland University of Technology are testing a quantum-computer-proof version of the transport layer security (TLS) protocol used to encrypt online data. The data-securing RSA algorithm typically employed by TLS generates pairs of digital security keys--a public key and a private key--by multiplying together large prime numbers. Decrypting such keys is an easy task for a quantum computer, but the new quantum-proof version of TLS creates keys using a different mathematical problem thought to be beyond the capabilities of both conventional and quantum computers.

Although Svore says indications are positive thus far that this solution will be effective, Microsoft researchers also are exploring other potential quantum-proof encryption methods.

From Technology Review
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