Cybersecurity experts gather in Ottawa to discuss quantum-safe standards

Monday, October 6, 2014

Experts from around the world will gather in Ottawa this week to discuss cybersecurity in a quantum world.

The University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), in partnership with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), will host the second Quantum-Safe Cryptography Workshop in our nation’s capital. The workshop brings together leading experts in cybersecurity, quantum computing and quantum technologies, along with government and industry leaders to develop a roadmap to ensure tomorrow’s cybersecurity protocols are secure in a world with quantum computers.

“We must start thinking about the future today,” says Michele Mosca, deputy director of IQC and co-organizer of the workshop. “It takes years to establish the right standards and protocols for cybersecurity. We don’t have a large-scale quantum computer yet, but we are quickly getting closer and there is a serious risk of having such quantum computers before the right quantum-safe protocols are in place”.

Advances in quantum computing research have identified a threat to current state-of-the-art cybersecurity. Today’s information security protocols rely on problems that are computationally hard to protect sensitive data. These protocols are difficult or impossible to solve for even the most powerful computers. Recent research has shown that quantum computers present a serious challenge to widely used cryptographic techniques. This challenge may lead to serious consequences – misuse of banking information, identity information, government security and other sensitive information.

Current cybersecurity techniques rely on standards and methods that have been well-tested and relied upon for more than 20 years. These well-tested methods are preferred amongst security and cybersecurity experts, but these methods have not been designed to resist quantum attacks. New research has revealed techniques that are “quantum safe” and are designed to resist attacks emerging from quantum computers.

“Quantum-safe standards will be essential to securing information for the next 100 years,” says Mark Pecen, CEO of Approach Infinity and board member at IQC. “The world is racing to build a quantum computer and once that happens yesterday and today’s information will no longer be secure. Setting the standards now will ensure our information is safe.”

A white paper, co-authored by Mosca, Pecen, and 17 other experts worldwide, on Quantum Safe Cryptography and Security will be released at the workshop. The whitepaper provides an introduction to the challenge of making the global ICT infrastructure safe against large-scale quantum computers, including discussions on the quantum-safe alternatives..

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