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Encryption's Quantum Leap: The Race to Stop the Hackers of Tomorrow

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Researchers are working on the next generation of encryption.

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology is taking the first steps toward developing quantum-resistant cryptography.

Credit: iStockphoto

Researchers are looking into the construction of new quantum-proof cryptography in order to thwart quantum-based schemes that future hackers could potentially use to crack sensitive data.

"If large-scale quantum computers are ever built, they will be able to break many of the public-key cryptosystems currently in use," warns the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "This would seriously compromise the confidentiality and integrity of digital communications on the Internet and elsewhere."

NIST is requesting comments on a new process to find and assess public-key cryptographic algorithms that quantum computers cannot decrypt.

NIST's goal is to create systems that are resistant to both quantum and classical computers, as well as interoperable with existing communications protocols and networks. The agency is investigating preliminary evaluation criteria for quantum-resistant public-key cryptography standards, which is slated for finalization by year's end. NIST then will start accepting proposals for such encryption, digital signatures, and key exchange algorithms, with a deadline in late 2017, followed by three to five years of public scrutiny before their acceptance as standards.

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