International cyberwarfare only gets more intense as the months and years go on. Our current cryptographic technology is helping to secure the most sensitive, the most critical national defense and scientific research data. Public utilities like power grids, space exploration, telecommunications networks, and national secrets are all at stake. Military cyber attacks could mean that homes and businesses lose electrical power, and our internet service providers and cellular networks may stop working.
In a few years, all binary cryptography may become obsolete because quantum computers could crack it all in no time flat. As I wrote here a couple of months ago:
“How would you feel if I told you all of that the cryptography that helps to make the modern world work will be obsolete very soon? Cryptographic implementations that are currently the equivalent of a locked door on a bank vault will soon be like covering something with a glue stick and tissue paper. I’d be a bit concerned if I were you. All current cryptography will soon become weaker than a seeding dandelion on a windy day.”
That day is coming very soon, and quantum computing is responsible. IBM’s Arvind Krishna says, “quantum computers will crack today’s encryption within a decade.” Krishna has been following the implications of quantum computing on cryptography very closely. He’s the senior vice president of IBM’s Cloud and Cognitive Software division, and he leads their research and development of quantum computing technology.
The heat is on! So, it makes me cautiously optimistic to learn that the world’s top computer scientists are making progress in the development of quantum cryptographic technology. You may already know that Canada is getting ready to launch quantum cryptographic satellites.
Well, I’ve got more news. I just recently learned that Japan may have some quantum cryptography ready as soon as 2025! That’s the immediate future as far as I’m concerned. The Japan Times broke the news from anonymous sources, likely from the Japanese government.
The research is exploring the possibility of deploying the new technology through currently existing fibre optic networks. If that could work, it would save Japan a lot of time and money. Building new networking infrastructure could take many more years and possibly billions of dollars. If that could be avoided, it would give Japan a head start.
“The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ budget request for fiscal 2020, to be submitted at the end of August, will include ¥1.5 billion ($14 million) for research and development of the technology”, they said.
Japan envisions a future of communications networks involving satellites that will allow the use of the encryption technology during video conference calls with foreign leaders and exchanges of confidential diplomatic information.
The technology entails transmitting photons via an optic fiber to the receiving unit, where they turn into a single-use key to decrypt a parallel stream of data.”
Deploying quantum networking in addition to all that would be another level of rock-solid security. You see, qubits (quantum bits) could contain a value of not just 1 or 0, but also 1 and 0 in indeterminate states. Any interception in the fibre optic cable data transmission, even by adding some light or just looking at it could modify the photons involved so the key is lost. Man-in-the-middle attacks could become a thing of that past. I’m frankly rather impressed!
Meanwhile I’ve also recently learned that IBM has made progress in developing quantum cryptographic algorithms which can be used on specific tape drives. The Netherlands' Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have been collaborating with IBM. As per CWI’s press release:
“Together with CWI, Radboud University and other international partners, IBM Research has developed quantum-safe algorithms for securing data. The new algorithms, which are part of the CRYSTALS suite, are based on the hardness of mathematical problems that have not succumbed to any algorithmic attacks, either classical or quantum. The team made them open-source and submitted them to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a candidate for standardization. IBM has now implemented CRYSTALS in one of their tape drives, making it the world’s first quantum computing safe tape drive prototype.
CRYSTALS (CRYptographic Suite for Algebraic latticeS), contains a secure key encapsulation mechanism called Kyber, and a secure digital signature algorithm, called Dilithium. IBM tested CRYSTALS successfully on a prototype IBM TS1160 tape drive using both Kyber and Dilithium to enable the world's first quantum computing safe tape drive. To help clients assess their potential risks, IBM Security is also offering a quantum data risk assessment service to help clients develop a quantum-safe cryptography implementation strategy.”
So, Japan is making headway in deploying quantum cryptography to data in transit, and the United States and the Netherlands are innovating deploying quantum cryptography to data in storage. Both types of quantum cryptographic technology will be absolutely necessary when quantum computers can crack all of our current binary algorithms in no time at all.
I’m so excited to watch this race!