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Why you need to start your post-quantum encryption migration now

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Some say we’ve the best section of a decade to get ready for the security risks that quantum computing presents to current encryption tech, but PA Consulting experts think that timeframe is shrinking dramatically


  • Richard Watson-Bruhn and Mark Chang

Published: 18 Aug 2022

Firms should already remember that quantum computing threatens to break the encryption that underpins all current digital interactions. That has been already a substantial challenge requiring focused attention, but recent developments have made addressing that threat a lot more urgent.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently published new quantum resistant public-key cryptographic algorithms and US president Biden directed agencies to begin with the multi-year procedure for migrating vulnerable personal computers to quantum-resistant cryptography.

However, the consensus was that firms had time and energy to migrate their encryption, with NIST explaining: Experts predict that, around 2030, well have full-scale quantum computers that may break asymmetric key cryptography.

This 2030 timeline was predicated on two assumptions firstly, that asymmetric encryption such as for example RSA is more vulnerable than symmetric encryption such as for example AES, and secondly, that full-scale quantum computers will be necessary to threaten current encryption.

Now a paper published in Science China Information Sciences seriously challenges both these assumptions. It has demonstrated a variational quantum attack algorithm is, firstly, a threat to symmetric cryptography instead of asymmetric cryptography. Secondly, it runs on current generation quantum hardware and is even more quickly than Grovers algorithm the prior gold standard decryption approach that required a full-scale quantum computer.

This new attack upends the prior consensus in significant ways and firms should now anticipate the foundation that quantum computers will probably break current encryption standards by the center of this decade. Failure to migrate will put many important digital interactions at an increased risk, including banking, web browsing, file sharing, video conferencing and much more.

To start out work on what’s now an urgent migration from present encryption solutions to next-generation approaches, firms should adopt the three As: be familiar with the issue, architect a remedy, and apply it.


Firms should make certain they understand the four post-quantum cryptography solutions (PQCs) recently selected by NIST. They have to be familiar with how these change from current methods within their implementation and what this may mean for his or her individual organisation.

This will include appreciating the way the lattice CRYSTALS pair CRYSTALS-Kyber, the only real public key scheme selected, and CRYSTALS-Dilithium, among the digital signature options, complement one another, and when to use another two digital signature options, Falcon, which NIST recommends using when Dilithium becomes too big and unwieldy, and Sphincs+, a more traditional design of scheme.

Simultaneously, firms should think about where physical quantum key distribution might add complementary protection, using quantum technologies to secure data with physics. These technologies could be more accessible than you imagine. In the united kingdom, BT is building the worlds first quantum-secured metro network across London.

Utilizing a combination of new quantum resistant encryption methods avoids the chance of putting all of your eggs in a single basket, that is a significant factor in this emerging field, where we’ve already seen flaws within encryption approaches that had previously been viewed as promising, such as for example Rainbow.


The migration to post-quantum cryptography is a multi-year process that requires a staged delivery. Systems being delivered today will routinely have a multi-year lifespan and firms therefore have to think about the migration to post-quantum cryptography right away. Equally, for data that should be kept secure for a medium to long lifespan, NIST warns of the chance that adversaries copy down your encrypted data and retain it until they will have a quantum computer.

Firms should therefore measure the various kinds of risk they will have across their enterprise architecture like the sensitivity of data, the amount of time that encryption must be maintained, and the risk of copies being taken by outside actors for future decryption to plan and prioritise the migration appropriately.


Finally, firms will have to concentrate on how they’ll implement their chosen mixture of standardised NIST post-quantum cryptography and physical quantum key distribution. This can need a careful selection of software and firmware. Also, inside our interconnected world, firms will have to establish and assure their supply chain and develop the correct stress-testing capabilities to keep security. The simplest way to do this would be to start small and take early action to create your capability and experience.

Only fourteen days after NIST announced new post-quantum cryptography approaches, we’ve had our assumptions on the quantum threat overturned by way of a new quantum attack which has changed the chance calculation and accelerates the deadline for migration. Action is necessary now, and firms must start assessing and addressing this risk today to be able to protect themselves in the not-too-distant future.

Richard Watson-Bruhn is really a quantum computing expert, and Mark Chang is quantum security expert, at PA Consulting

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