Securing data from tomorrow's supercomputers

August 18, 2015 by Rose Trapnell, Queensland University of Technology

For the powerful quantum computers that will be developed in the future, cracking online bank account details and credit cards number will be a cinch.

But a team of cryptographers which includes QUT's Dr Douglas Stebila is already working at future-proofing the privacy of today's Internet communications from tomorrow's powerful computers.

Dr Stebila, along with researchers Joppe Bos from chip maker NXP Semiconductors and Craig Costello and Michael Naehrig from Microsoft Research, have developed upgrades to the Internet's core encryption protocol that will prevent quantum computer users from intercepting Internet communications.

"Governments and the computing industry are working with scientists to try to build quantum computers. It's a very significant scientific challenge, but quantum computers could be reality in a few decades," Dr Stebila said.

"Quantum computers will be able to solve complex scientific problems, like simulating chemical reactions, much faster than today's most powerful supercomputers, but they'll also be able to break much of the public key cryptography that's used to protect Internet, mobile telephone, and other electronic communication."

"Though quantum computers don't exist yet, they could be used to retroactively decrypt past transmissions," Dr Stebila explained.

"That's why it's important that we start updating our communication infrastructure. We've tested some new techniques and found some very promising first steps towards future-proofing Internet encryption."

Dr Stebila said that Internet communication was currently protected by encryption using the Transport Layer Security (TLS) standard, which ensures that web browsers can't be tricked into sending data to the wrong web server, and that eavesdroppers can't intercept passwords or other personal information.

"The TLS Internet encryption protocol uses a variety of mathematical techniques to protect information, some of which would need to be updated to be resistant to quantum computers.

"We've developed a new quantum-proof version of TLS that incorporates a mathematical technique called the 'ring learning with errors problem', a fairly recent technique that mathematicians think has the potential to resist quantum attacks.

"We've tested our new protocol to encrypt data moving between two PCs—the new techniques are a little slower than existing ones, but the confidentiality of the data is improved.

"The speed of the new protocol is now something we will work on, but this is a big step forward, demonstrating the practicality of these new techniques. We're optimistic this will provide a framework for developing effective ways of future-proofing our data in the world of quantum computers."

Explore further: Multi-million EU project to protect data against quantum computers

More information: "Post-quantum key exchange for the TLS protocol from the ring learning with errors problem."

Related Stories

The road to quantum computing

May 15, 2014

Anticipating the advent of the quantum computer, related mathematical methods already provide insight into conventional computer science.

Recommended for you

Shedding light on the mystery of the superconducting dome

March 20, 2018

University of Groningen physicists, and colleagues from Nijmegen and Hong Kong, have induced superconductivity in a monolayer of tungsten disulfide. By using an increasing electric field, they were able to show how the material ...

Neutrons help demystify multiferroic materials

March 19, 2018

Materials used in electronic devices are typically chosen because they possess either special magnetic or special electrical properties. However, an international team of researchers using neutron scattering recently identified ...

Designing diamonds for medical imaging technologies

March 19, 2018

Japanese researchers have optimized the design of laboratory-grown, synthetic diamonds. This brings the new technology one step closer to enhancing biosensing applications, such as magnetic brain imaging. The advantages of ...

Taking MRI technology down to micrometer scales

March 19, 2018

Millions of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are performed each year to diagnose health conditions and perform biomedical research. The different tissues in our bodies react to magnetic fields in varied ways, allowing ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.