Home Blockchain IBM, Microsoft, others form post-quantum cryptography coalition

IBM, Microsoft, others form post-quantum cryptography coalition

by Harry Garcia

IBM Quantum and Microsoft have joined forces with other organizations to form a coalition dedicated to addressing the potential threats posed by quantum computers to current encryption schemes. This coalition includes MITRE, PQShield, SandboxAQ (a sibling company of Google), and the University of Waterloo.

Quantum computers have the potential to break the encryption that currently secures our sensitive data due to their immense computational power. While classical computers would take an unthinkable amount of time to crack encryption using mathematical problems, a quantum computer could theoretically achieve this in a matter of weeks, days, or even hours.

One of the encryption schemes that is widely used and considered the standard is RSA. However, the security offered by RSA and similar encryption schemes could be compromised by quantum computers. This presents a significant challenge for technologies that rely on encryption, such as blockchain and cryptocurrency.

To address this challenge, the coalition aims to develop standards for post-quantum cryptography, create secure and efficient implementations of post-quantum algorithms, and integrate these algorithms into cryptographic libraries and protocols.

It is currently uncertain how long it will take for quantum computers to reach the level of sophistication required to pose a real threat to existing encryption schemes. However, a study conducted in 2022 suggested that a quantum computer with 300 million qubits would be needed to crack the Bitcoin blockchain. Considering that today’s most advanced quantum computers have a little over 100 qubits on average, the threat may still be some time away.

Nonetheless, the coalition is taking a proactive approach by preparing for a transition to post-quantum encryption. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has already chosen four proposed post-quantum encryption algorithms as candidates for a PQC-safe encryption standard. Three of these algorithms have been accepted for standardization by NIST, with the fourth expected to follow suit in 2024.

With the acceptance and standardization of these algorithms, the coalition is now focused on ensuring that key institutions, such as government agencies, banks, telecommunications companies, and transportation services, are able to transition from current encryption methods to post-quantum encryption.

By collaborating and leveraging the knowledge and expertise of its members, the coalition aims to accelerate the adoption of post-quantum cryptography in both commercial and open-source technologies. This proactive approach is crucial to ensure data security in a future where quantum computers pose a significant threat to current encryption schemes.

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