Quantum Computing: Sizing Up the Risks to Security

Within the next five to 10 years, quantum computing will get so powerful that it could be used to break encryption on the fly, predicts Steve Marshall, …

Within the next five to 10 years, quantum computing will get so powerful that it could be used to break encryption on the fly, predicts Steve Marshall, CISO at U.K.-based Bytes Software Services.

“We rely on cryptography to prevent people from decoding our credit cards and to protect highly sensitive data that we share. Quantum computing is going to have a major influence on all of these things,” Marshall says in an interview with Information Security Media Group.

“At the moment, quantum computers have about 72 qubits of quantum information. … In order to crack things like RSA 2048 public key cryptography, you require about 400 qubits of power. So it’s only a matter of time before quantum computers get to the point where they have got enough power in order to be able to crack RSA and other asymmetric cryptography.”

In this interview (see audio link below image), Marshall also discusses:

  • Categories of post-quantum cryptography;
  • The state of research on quantum-resistant cryptography;
  • How quantum computing impacts information security.

Marshall, who is based in the U.K., is CISO at Bytes Software Services, a computer support and services firm. He specializes in business consulting, payments, compliance, breach clean-up, enterprise architecture validation, assurance, corporate/information security, security restructures and risk across many business verticals and markets.

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Unique Cryptanalytic Attack Used To Crack Private Keys of Cryptocurrencies

Vinny Lingham, CEO of Civic, on January 11, 2019, predicted that the cryptocurrency might fall below $3,000. Lingam states that the market would …

Vinny Lingham, CEO of Civic, onJanuary 11, 2019, predicted that the cryptocurrency might fall below $3,000.

Lingam states that the marketwould either breakdown or breakout. Bitcoin is trying to decide which way togo, therefore would trade sideways until the crypto finds a breakout orbreakdown direction.

On Thursday, within just a fewminutes Bitcoin shed $250 out of $4000. Thevolatility pattern of the Bitcoin took a new turn. The gains that were made earlier got canceledout. The price movements of Altcoinsreacted intensely to the price drop of Bitcoin. Almost all the cryptocurrenciesin the top twenty list by market capitalization shed 11.3% on Friday.

Recent research has identifiedthat hackers are using methods to calculate the private keys ofcryptocurrencies. They make use of a unique cryptanalytic attack.

However, these attacks occur onlyin cases where the developers have not executed their codes properly or in situationsthat involve faulty hardware that functions with multi-signature. Thosenetworks that are properly implemented do not suffer these attacks.

It so happens that anytime acrypto holder is involved in a transaction, they create a cryptographic signature.They make use of Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA). A nonce isgenerated by the algorithm. Thisarbitrary number is to be used for just once. It is important for the softwareto sign up with a different nonce each time otherwise hackers will be able tocalculate the private key of the signers.

Hackers continually monitor theblockchain watching for repeated nonces. Thus, they will be able to extractmoney from compromised keys. Hackers will be able to calculate the keys fromsignatures that make use of different signatures, but similar nonce. In cases,where the nonces have similar strings in the beginning and end of thesignatures then the hackers can exploit it.

The digital signature nonce isdifferent from the nonce used in the cryptocurrency mining process. The chancesfor exploitation of nonce are more when the values are very shorter than itshould be.

Lattice is an advancedmathematical approach that can be used to crack the wallet addresses toidentify the private keys. Several cryptanalytic techniques make use of thelattice algorithms as a building block.

This need not set most of thecryptocurrency users into a world of worry, because, a hack is possible onlywhen there is a bug in the digital signature code. The security scheme will be secure for aslong as it is executed according to the protocol and documented methods.The amount of time and electricity required forthis process is too high to make it profitable for attackers.

How NIST is preparing to defend against quantum attacks

The data encryption standard, MD5 and SHA-1 were all popular hash … How imminent do you think the threat of quantum computing-based attacks is?

A simplified interpretation of Moore’s Law is that the overall processing power of computers will double every two years — and will lead to quantum computing.

Although many experts believe physical and economic limitations are finally beginning to slow down this rate of progression, the incredible increase in computing power over the last 50 years has meant that cryptographic algorithms once considered secure have had to be retired and replaced. As this continues to happen and quantum computers gain more of a foothold, it will open up systems to quantum attacks.

The data encryption standard, MD5 and SHA-1 were all popular hash algorithms but are all now considered weak, and the successor to SHA-2, SHA-3, has already been published. Two cryptographic algorithms that have been in use for several years and that are still considered secure are Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) and elliptic-curve cryptography (ECC). They are both asymmetric — public key — cryptosystems that are used extensively in the protocols that enable secure communication over the internet and other networks.

The effectiveness of public key cryptosystems depends on a kind of trapdoor mathematical problem. RSA uses integer factorization. It’s easy to pick two large prime numbers, multiply them and know what the product is, but there’s no easy way to figure out which two prime numbers were multiplied in order to produce a product. These types of problems are time-consuming to solve, but they are usually faster than trying all the possible keys by brute force.

The overall strength of an encryption algorithm is measured in terms of breakability — meaning how difficult it would be for an attacker to break it. The approved security strengths for federal applications are 112, 128, 192 and 256 bits. Previously, 80 bits was allowed, but this has since been found to be insecure.

According to cryptographer Burt Kaliski of RSA Laboratories, a 112-bit key search today on a $10 million machine would take about 30 billion years, and even in 2030 — 18 generations of improvement from now — it would still take over 100,000 years.

Key length is also an important factor in determining encryption strength. For example, RSA claims that 2048-bit keys are sufficient until 2030, but an RSA key length of 3072 bits should be used if security is required beyond then.

What quantum computing means for cryptography

The imminent arrival of high-speed parallel computers based on quantum mechanics has many security experts concerned that these algorithms will need to be retired earlier than Moore’s Law would have predicted in order to avoid quantum attacks. According to the NSA, “A sufficiently large quantum computer, if built, would be capable of undermining all widely-deployed public key algorithms used for key establishment and digital signatures.”

The reason for this is that quantum computers are extremely good at solving mathematical problems like integer factorization and the algebraic structure of elliptic curves over finite fields used in ECC. They can process information in parallel as opposed to sequentially, and multiple possible answers can be considered in any given computation. Interestingly, quantum computing techniques are thought to be much less effective against symmetric algorithms than current public key algorithms provided a sufficiently large key size is used.

RSA and ECC have served us well, but NIST has decided the time has come to begin preparing critical IT systems so that they can resist quantum attacks. It has initiated a process to solicit, evaluate and standardize one or more quantum-resistant public key cryptographic algorithms.

One current option is lattice-based cryptography. Lattice-based primitives have already been successfully plugged into the Transport Layer Security and Internet Key Exchange protocols. This means that all the important security protocols can be made safe from quantum attacks by substituting vulnerable problems with problems that are hard for quantum computers to solve, using just a couple of extra kilobytes of data per communication session.

Quantum computing is going to have a profound effect on today’s security infrastructure, as it requires changes in the fundamental design of today’s public key cryptography. Enterprises need to consider how they will tackle the security implications sooner rather than later, particularly when it comes to data that needs to be stored for long periods of time.

The NSA has begun the process of transitioning from ECC to new algorithms that are resistant to attacks by quantum computers and recommends that anyone using ECC move to the larger 384-bit curve for all classified information until there is an accepted, standardized suite of commercial public key algorithms that are not vulnerable to quantum attacks.

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As quantum computing draws near, cryptography security concerns grow

Quantum computing has just made a great leap forward, but there are dark clouds on the horizon. The new leap forward has dizzying security …

We now have the first proof of quantum computing’s superiority. When comparing the processing power of quantum and classic circuits, researchers at the Technical University of Munich conclusively demonstrated that quantum computers can solve problems faster and more effectively. This milestone marks not just an auspicious beginning, but a very ominous one too.

IBM, Google, and Boeing are already making massive investments into quantum computing. In fact, according to Gartner, 20 percent of all companies will be investing in this area within the next five years.

This means great things for technology; there’s a reason they call it a quantum leap! But sooner or later, it’s going to be used by people with bad intentions with devastating effects.

Why worry about quantum computing?

Classical computing uses memory composed of bits, which are capable of generating 1s or 0s. A quantum computer uses qubits, which can be composed of 1s, 0s or multiple values at the same time. That capability allows us to solve multiple problems concurrently, freeing us from the binary constraints of classical computing. Quantum computing promises to change the face of computing as we currently know it.

Much of the worry about quantum computing comes from the simple fact that it can defeat much of modern encryption. In fact, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) believes that quantum computing will break the most of the near-ubiquitous encryption protocols like RSA and Elliptic Curve public key cryptography that underpin so much of the modern internet. 128-bit encryption, for example, is used by governments, enterprises and home users alike. It is estimated that it will quickly buckle under the force of quantum.

Of course, nation states are likely to be the first to attain and use this kind of technology to catastrophic consequences. US Congressman Will Hurd, Chair of the Information Technology Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, characterized the shockwave that quantum would send in international relations in Wired last year. He said, “In the same way that atomic weaponry symbolized power throughout the Cold War, quantum capability is likely to define hegemony in today’s increasingly digital, interconnected global economy.”

Quantum computing could be commercially available in as little as 10 years. When hackers do get a hold of this technology, there will be trouble. That said, security adoption cycles can be slow – take a look at Heartbleed, for example. Organizations must start preparing now to face the new landscape that quantum computing will bring about.

SEE MORE: Will quantum computing break blockchain?

Putting up the barricades

The implications are profound for everyone from governments to the enterprise to the home user. Many organizations are developing quantum-resistant algorithms and public key cryptography to combat this future threat. NIST is already working on a cryptography standard for the post-quantum world. Unfortunately, cryptographic transformation is often slow. The decade it took to adopt Elliptic Curve is just such an example.

However effective these countermeasures might be, enterprises shouldn’t wait around for them. The first step towards quantum-resistance will be to identify your own encryption systems and assess whether they can stand up to that threat. While quantum will be able to break 128-bit encryption keys, it will not be able to the do the same for longer versions. AES-256 or SHA-512 are good choices to replace your quantum vulnerable keys.

Hash-based signatures also go a long way to resisting quantum-based attacks, even if they can only sign a finite number of things. NIST is expected to standardize hash based signatures next year, so it makes sense to get ahead of the curve here anyway.

Most of all, customers should be leaning on their providers to prepare for the arrival of quantum and to include Public Key Infrastructure in their developments.

The industry is already hard at work developing quantum-resistant tools, the first of which are already available. Blackberry, for example, has recently publicly launched quantum-resistant security tools. Their offerings include a code signing server which will allow software to be made resistant to quantum attacks.

For Digicert’s part, we have teamed up with Gemalto and ISARA to tackle quantum within the PKI industry. Using ISARA’s algorithms, Gemalto’s hardware security, and our PKI, this partnership aims to offer Quantum resistant certificates to protect against the oncoming threat of quantum computing.

SEE ALSO: Why in-memory computing is the future of computing

Start preparing now

Any and every technological development brings with it these kinds of concerns. IoT, for example, has a plethora of legitimate uses and in many cases will be able to save lives in greater numbers due to those developments. However, our early experiences of such technology have also led to its illicit abuse, including the construction of vast and destructive DDoS botnets. Technology is ultimately an amoral, neutrally-charged tool that depends upon the intentions of the user to be helpful or harmful. If one side of the law is interested, you can be sure that the other is too.

Quantum powered hackers are not here yet, but we can now see their outline on the horizon. There is still time to prepare before it docks. Still, we should be sure to prepare for that day because when it arrives, everything is going to change.

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Question for cryptographers: SNARK friendly signature protocol

Now we are building plasma with SNARKs friendly state and I think that proving also the signatures inside the SNARK may be a good idea because in …

Now we are building plasma with SNARKs friendly state and I think that proving also the signatures inside the SNARK may be a good idea because in future it provides us transaction history compression.

Is it safe to build ECDSA on jubjub and Pedersen hash? The circuit for ECDSA is using about 10000 constraints, but I have not seen the usage of this approach anywhere.

Most of the projects are using much heavier sha256 and EdDSA.

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