Talk of data security is all-pervading these days. Especially when coarse IT security loopholes are made public – like Meltdown or Spectre at the beginning of the year or in the current affair surrounding Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. In the approaching age of quantum computing, which will take advantage of the laws of quantum physics to compute umpteen times faster than current computers, the question of security takes on a completely new dimension.
Researchers from all over the world are devoting themselves to this topic of the future from 11th to 13th April at the First PQC (post-quantum cryptography) Standardization Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This conference is a run-up to the standardisation process which will take place over many years. TU Graz’s Institute of Applied Information Processing and Communication Technology is also represented at the conference with two standardisation proposals concerning quantum-computing-secure algorithms for digital signatures: one of them is in the team with Princeton University and Microsoft and one with TU Eindhoven.
A quantum leap ahead
Big companies such as IBM, Intel and Google as well as the EU and intelligence services, are currently frantically working on a completely new generation of computers – so-called quantum computers – which are supposed to herald the next revolution in information processing. But there is a catch. If quantum computers can be built in a really stable way in 20 or 30 years, the complete basis for the security architecture in our current data networks will be vulnerable to attack. For this reason the urgent task of finding new cryptographic algorithms which are immune to attacks from quantum computers are being discussed at this conference. Time is pressing; it doesn’t matter when quantum computers will actually become reality because it will take many years to reorganise all the data-security infrastructure.
The challenges facing data security became clear at the beginning of the year in the context of Meltdown and Spectre. An international team, among whom were researchers from TU Graz, discovered security loopholes in the computer processors of PCs, servers and cloud services in January 2018. Researchers at TU Graz’s Institute of Applied Information Processing and Communication Technology developed a patch which was able to close these loopholes.