The federal government is giving a Toronto startup the opportunity to prove that its new technology can help protect today’s encrypted Canadian communications from being hacked by quantum computers.
Quantum Bridge Technologies (QBT) said this month it received a $1 million contract that will allow the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development’s research unit to test its key management unit and black phone products.
When quantum computers become practical, they will pose a threat to the traditional encryption techniques used today. Users of these technologies include governments that use classical encryption to protect communications between departments and other governments, financial institutions that protect bank accounts and transactions, and social media sites that protect messages between consumers. personal information stored by corporations…the list goes on.
While governments around the world are funding public and private sector work on quantum computers, they are also looking at quantum-resilient solutions that could prevent current encryption protocols from being broken.
Quantum Bridge says its key management unit uses Distributed Symmetric Key Exchange (DSKE) and can integrate with existing network equipment and infrastructure. It says its Black Phone app for instant messaging, voice and video calls uses DSKE to deliver secure authentication and end-to-end encryption and authentication that cannot be hacked by quantum computers.
“In the long run, most critical infrastructure will have to adopt such solutions to guarantee quantum security,” the company’s CEO Mattia Montagna said in an interview.
The tests involved creating two points of presence – one in Ottawa and one in Montreal – with IPsec over a Layer 3 tunnel (a VPN) and a Layer 2 tunnel. Quantum Bridge’s key management solution will provide encryption and authentication for the tunnels.
Over a period of two months, there will be performance and penetration testing and an audit. For mobile testing, there will be iPhones and laptops, as well as scalability and penetration testing.
Current encryption protects data with a cryptographic key. There are two types of encryption: asymmetric, also known as public-key cryptography, which encrypts and decrypts data using two different yet mathematically related cryptographic keys, one of which is public is (for encryption), the other private (for decryption), while symmetric encryption uses one key for encryption and decryption.
“When you think about what quantum computers could do for cryptography,” Montagna said, “it’s important to understand that there is a big threat to asymmetric encryption. Quantum computers are not particularly a threat to symmetric encryption; the problem is with RSA.” And that comes from public key infrastructure. Governments are looking for new solutions for key distribution, which is what public key infrastructure does today, and they’re looking for new solutions that don’t rely on asymmetric encryption.
“You can either do quantum key distribution or pre-shared keys. Quantum key distribution is still very expensive.” Quantum Bridge’s technology — based on research conducted at the University of Toronto by company co-founder Hoi-Kwang Lo — makes pre-shared keys easy-to-use and scalable, he said.
Michelle Mosca, a member of the University of Waterloo Institute for Quantum Computing, welcomed the news of the quantum bridge test. “Part of making Canadian digital infrastructure quantum-secure is to prepare for the possibility that what we currently believe is strong public-key cryptography is not working,” he said in an email. “Therefore, in addition to public-key methods, for critical systems we need robust and scalable solutions that are not susceptible to mathematical cryptanalysis.
The trial is one of several efforts Canada is making to help companies here find and bring to market quantum-resistant solutions.
“Under the National Quantum Strategy, our government has indicated it will ensure the privacy and cyber security of Canadians through investment for a national secure quantum communications network and by encouraging the deployment of post-quantum cryptography,” Laurie Bouchard , said the senior communications manager. Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED). “These efforts will take place in collaboration with Canadian researchers, industry, international partners and standards organizations.
“Canada’s strong technical expertise and its reputation as a neutral broker provide opportunities to build technical leadership in sensitive technologies like quantum, which also respond to our economic and national security interests.”
In the meantime, work continues on creating an internationally agreed quantum-resistant algorithm.
Last year, the US National Institute of Technology and Standards (NIST) Chose the first group of encryption tools It believes it will withstand the onslaught of quantum computers of the future.