“The first thing organizations need to do is understand where, how and why they use cryptocurrencies,” El Kaafarani said. “Start evaluating which parts of the system need to be switched and transition from the most vulnerable to post-quantum cryptography.”
Quantum computers still suffer from a large degree of uncertainty. No one knows what they can do or if it’s even possible to build them at scale. Quantum computers made by companies like Google and IBM are starting to outperform classical devices at specially designed tasks, but scaling them up is a formidable technical challenge, and it will be many years before Shor’s algorithm can run in any meaningful way. method of quantum computer. “The biggest problem is that we have to make educated guesses about the future capabilities of classical and quantum computers,” Young said. “There is no security here.”
The complexity of these new algorithms makes it difficult to evaluate how well they actually work in practice. “Assessing security is often a cat-and-mouse game,” said Artur Ekert, professor of quantum physics at Oxford University and one of the pioneers of quantum computing. “Lattice-based cryptography is very elegant from a mathematical point of view, but evaluating its security is really hard.”
The researchers who developed these NIST-backed algorithms say they can effectively simulate how long it takes a quantum computer to solve a problem. “You don’t need a quantum computer to write a quantum program and know how long it will run,” said Vadim Lyubashevsky, an IBM researcher who contributed to the CRYSTALS-Dilithium algorithm. But no one knows what new quantum algorithms researchers might devise in the future.
In fact, when IBM researcher Ward Beullens published a paper titled “Breaking Rainbow Takes a Weekend on a Laptop,” one of the NIST finalists — a structured lattice algorithm called Rainbow — was eliminated from the competition. . Young believes that the NIST announcement will focus codebreakers on the structured lattice, which could derail the entire project.
There’s also a careful balance between security and efficiency, Ekert said: Fundamentally, if you make your encryption key longer, it’s harder to crack, but it also requires more computing power. If post-quantum cryptography rolls out as widely as RSA, this could mean a significant impact on the environment.
Young accused NIST of “naive” thinking, while Ekert said “a more detailed security analysis is needed.” Only a few people in the world have the combined quantum and cryptography expertise required to perform this analysis.
Over the next two years, NIST will publish draft standards, solicit comments, and finalize new forms of quantum-proof encryption that it hopes will be adopted worldwide. After that, based on previous implementations, Moody’s believes it may take 10 to 15 years for companies to implement widely, but their data may be vulnerable now. “We have to start now,” El Kaafarani said. “If we want to protect our medical records, intellectual property or personal information, this is our only option.”