Hoping to move the world toward better encryption before quantum-powered code-breaking tools arrive, the White House on Wednesday ordered federal agencies to reconsider their security protocols and begin efforts to work with the industry on new ones.
“Current research shows that at some point in the near future, when quantum information science matures, quantum computers will be able to break much of the cryptography that currently provides our digital communication,” a senior White House official told reporters. . in Tuesday.
Much of the encryption for security, which works against the backdrop of digital life, works essentially as combination locks. Just as you can open a coded lock if you have the patience to try all possible combinations, so you can break modern encryption if you have enough computing power and time, but in some cases it means thousands of years.
However, quantum computers work radically differently from conventional computers. Conventional computers rely on transistors that form logic ports – mostly small switches built into the chip. Similarly, the switch can occupy one of two positions, on or off, so that conventional logic ports can produce one of two values, zero or one. Connect all these zeros and ones together and you have modern computer code.
But at the quantum, that is, atomic level, physics functions differently. It is possible to create a unit of information called a quantum bit or qubit that represents neither zero nor one, but both at the same time. This promises to make quantum computing much faster than conventional computing – fast enough to open up vast new possibilities for artificial intelligence, code-breaking, and more.
Quantum calculations are still in their infancy. Experts disagree on how to assess the performance of quantum compared to ordinary computers. But there is a wide consensus that quantum computers, which can break extremely complex encryption, will arrive at some point, and probably during this decade.
The new National Security Memorandum, or NSM, released by the White House on Wednesday, requires federal agencies to bring their encryption to standards.
“Given the complexity, cost and time required to fully transition to quantum-robust cryptographic standards, NSM provides a roadmap for agencies to inventory their IT systems, requiring them to identify and implement specific steps. This will help ensure that federal agencies receive the support they need to fully and effectively protect their networks from future exploitation. information sheet which the National Security Council told reporters.
It also directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to work with industry to “generate research and promote widespread, equitable adoption of quantum-stable cryptographic standards and technologies.”
Needless to say, moving the world to a new set of cryptographic standards will not be cheap. White House officials have said they want to start working with the industry now so that private individuals can help develop new encryption tools that can withstand the dawn of quantum computing.
“Public key cryptography, which is used on the Internet, is obviously also used in the private sector. So, if we move hand in hand to build new algorithms, to build new ways of sharing keys, this will also significantly reduce costs and allow the sharing of new processes and protocols that will have to be introduced to allow not only in the United States, but … all over the world, “he said.
Fortunately, another senior White House official said: “You don’t need quantum computers to make one of these [new cryptographic standards]. You can design new classic algorithms that work on routers and networks today that are sustainable.