Accenture Report: Cryptography in a Post-Quantum World

Accenture talks about the threat to cryptography in a world of quantum computers which is an urgent need for organisations to quantum-safe approaches

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In the digital era, data security is top of mind for many businesses and governments to protect financial records, medical histories, military strategy, confidential information and more. Organizations typically rely on vetted cryptographic algorithms to secure this information. These algorithms underpin an organization’s ability to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of business transaction systems, B2B and B2C processes, and digital services delivered via the Internet, cloud or as-a-service on hosted platforms. Secured information is typically classified based on expectations that it will remain secret for a duration of time. Algorithms using traditional CPU computing have been engineered to be mathematically strong enough to support a 20-year service life requirement, meaning that the cryptographic primitive is unlikely to be broken by adversarial techniques. However, recent technology developments have cut this service life expectation in half, causing the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to rescind the current public key standard of RSA 2048 released in 2016 and aggressively seek more complex cryptographic algorithms to thwart attackers.

The looming threat to these cryptographic standards is a new paradigm of computation: the quantum computer. In 1994, Peter Shor formulated an algorithm for quantum computers that would have the power to identify secret cryptographic keys in an extremely efficient way, dramatically reducing the expected time to solve for certain current cryptographic techniques. At the time the algorithm was envisioned, the technology did not exist to build a machine that could implement the method at scale. Two decades later, researchers are starting to realize the quantum processing hardware necessary to run the algorithm. In the event of a major processing breakthrough, the disruption would be massive to businesses’ ability to guarantee integrity of process, maintain data protections and ultimately compete in the marketplace. Many academic researchers anticipate that a quantum computer will be able to implement Shor’s Algorithm at a relevant scale in the 10 to 15 years.

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