Security tool will help protect against ‘quantum’ hackers

A security tool picked up by the US Government is based on Auckland University research and will help protect against cyber attacks from “quantum” hackers.

Crystals-Dilithium is the name of one of four “quantum-resistant encryption systems” approved for use by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology last week.

“Quantum-resistant encryption” refers to security systems that can withstand attacks by quantum computers – a new generation of computers, hundreds of million times more powerful than the most advanced supercomputers today.

The system was built on research co-authored by Professor Steven Galbraith, Head of the Department of Mathematics at Auckland University.

Current cryptography methods rely on mathematical algorithms so complicated that even supercomputers would take millennia to solve, but the advance and wider accessibility of quantum computers would make this redundant.

In 2019, an algorithm expected to take IBM’s supercomputer Summit 10,000 years to compute was completed in a mere 200 seconds by Google’s quantum computer.

“A hacker with a quantum computer could decrypt a lot of sensitive information, including health records and national security information. They could also do industrial espionage by getting access to the intellectual property of companies,” Galbraith said.

New Zealand’s institutional cybersecurity (or lack of) was exposed when the Waikato District Health Board was hacked last year, leaving systems disabled and leaking confidential information.

The attack did not involve quantum computers, raising concerns regarding the inadequate cybersecurity practices in place now, let alone preventing attacks in the future.

“At the moment the only people with quantum computers are large governments and large companies like IBM and Google,” Galbraith said.

“Hackers do not have access to their own quantum computers. But the business model of IBM and Google will be to sell access to their quantum computers…much like how Amazon sells access to the AWS system for machine learning,” he told the Herald.

Post-quantum cryptography helps to prevent attacks by “quantum hackers”.

“Post-quantum cryptography is a more practical solution for the…