SEAL SQ is developing the next generation of secure chips that will resist attacks based on quantum systems massive computation power.
A new level of cyber-threat
Existing public-key cryptography is based on the difficulty of factoring and calculating elliptic curve discrete logarithms. Quantum systems can develop unbelievable calculation power, and will thus be able to decrypt widely used asymmetric security protocols, such as the commonly used RSA or elliptical curve algorithms that protect billions of IoT devices today. It is mandatory to start working on post-quantum cryptography before current cryptosystems become obsolete !
Quantum computers are machines that use the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations. This can be extremely advantageous for certain tasks where they could vastly outperform even our best supercomputers.
Classical computers, which include smartphones and laptops, encode information in binary “bits” that can either be 0s or 1s. In a quantum computer, the basic unit of memory is a quantum bit or qbit.
For instance, eight bits is enough for a classical computer to represent any number between 0 and 255. But eight qubits are enough for a quantum computer to represent every number between 0 and 255 at the same time. A few hundred entangled qubits would be enough to represent more numbers than there are atoms in the universe…
The nature of Quantum Threat
We are entering a new era in which the quantum computer will replace in some cases “classical” computers and will be able to solve, within reasonable time, issues that were known to be unsolvable.
In 1994, Peter Shor published an algorithm able to factorize a big integer into two prime numbers in polynomial time making the assumption of the existence of a quantum computer. This algorithm, not denied until now, is just waiting for the machine able to execute it.
Fully error-corrected quantum computers will become available and the threat level for current protocols will vary. Yet some widely used asymmetric security protocols are potentially vulnerable to quantum computing: In 2019, researchers published an article in which they explained how a powerful quantum computer could break RSA algorithm in 8 hours.
The NIST post Quantum Project
A NIST published report from April 2016 cites experts that acknowledge the possibility of quantum technology to render the commonly used RSA algorithm insecure by 2030.
In December 2016 NIST initiated a standardization process by announcing a call for proposals. Efforts focus on public-key cryptography, namely digital signatures and key encapsulation mechanisms. The competition is now in its third round (out of four) and many algorithms have been discarded. NIST hopes to publish the standardization documents by 2024 or earlier.
SEAL SQ partners with academic research and industry on several candidates for cryptography systems that will both withstand quantum computer capabilities, while still working with existing protocols.
Following the NIST’s initiative to select the best Quantum-Resistant Algorithms, SEAL SQ has launched The QUASARS project. The aim is to build a post-quantum Root-of-Trust and Hardware Security Module able to run the new algorithms that will be selected by the NIST initiative, and still compliant with all other security requirements from the French ANSSI and Common Criteria EAL5+ label. The final platform will be the new RISC V SEAL SQ Platform, but the team has already taken steps to run two of the Crystals Algorithms (Kyber and Dilithium) appointed by the NIST on the existing MS 6003 secure hardware platform.
In particular, the integration of post-quantum cryptosystems on microcontrollers raises some questions and uncertainties such as:
- Lack of security proofs for some existing schemes
- Lack of side-channel attacks studies and countermeasures (especially with deep learning approach)
- Sizes of manipulated data much bigger than those on the cryptosystems in current use
Implementing Quantum-proof algorithms in secure hardware
From 2018 to 2021 SEAL SQ quantum innovation team has co-directed a PhD thesis on the implementation of post-quantum algorithms in our secure architectures.
Fill the form download your report
Learn more about our Quantum research
Exploiting ROLLO’s constant time implementations with a single trace analysis
Optimized and secure implementation of ROLLO I
Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, March 31, 2021
“We must prepare for [post-quantum technology] now to protect the confidentiality of data that already exists today and remains sensitive in the future.”