What are quantum-resistant algorithms and why do we need them?

Fortunately, symmetric-key encryption methods are not dangerous because they work very differently and can be protected by simply increasing the size of the keys they use—unless mathematicians figure out how quantum computers can crack them too. . But even increasing the key size cannot protect existing public-key encryption algorithms from quantum computers. We need new algorithms.

What are the implications if quantum computers break the encryption we currently use?

Yes this is bad. If public key encryption were suddenly broken without replacement, digital security would be seriously compromised. For example, websites use public key encryption to provide a secure connection to the Internet, so sending sensitive information through websites will no longer be secure. Cryptocurrencies also depend on public key encryption to secure their underlying blockchain technology, so the data in their ledgers is no longer trustworthy.

There are also concerns that hackers and nation-states may be stockpiling highly sensitive government or intelligence data — data they currently cannot decipher — to decipher later when quantum computers become available.

How is work progressing on quantum-resistant algorithms?

In the US, NIST is looking for new algorithms that can withstand the attacks of quantum computers. The agency began accepting public submissions in 2016 and has now narrowed down to four finalists and three reserve algorithms. These new algorithms use methods that can withstand quantum computer attacks using Shor’s algorithm.

Project lead Dustin Moody says NIST plans to complete the standardization of the four finalists in 2024, which includes creating guidelines to ensure the new algorithms are used correctly and safely. Standardization of the remaining three algorithms is expected in 2028.

The job of testing candidates for the new standard falls largely to mathematicians and cryptographers from universities and research institutes. They present proposals for post-quantum cryptographic schemes and look for ways to attack them by sharing their findings, publishing papers, and relying on each other’s various attack methods.

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