The Risks of Post-Quantum Cryptography in a Quantum Future

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In the world of quantum, one of the most talked-about topics is undoubtedly quantum-resistant algorithms. Also known as Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC), these algorithms are based on mathematically complex problems that assure the confidentiality, integrity, and authentication of transmissions, even against future quantum computers. In theory. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has initiated a process to standardize one or more PQC algorithms, to develop a cryptographic system that is secure against both quantum and classical computers.

These efforts notwithstanding, Quantropi believes that PQC algorithms alone won’t be enough to fully protect the world’s networks and data from the fast-approaching quantum threat.

Here’s why.

Security Challenges in Post-Quantum Cryptography

PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) and PQC do not claim to be unbreakable, they are intractable. Classical PKI relies on math puzzles that take classical computers a very long time to solve; so long that the encrypted information would be useless by the time it is broken (we’re talking billions of years). Quantum computers can solve the math problems currently used by PKI in seconds.

PQC takes the PKI approach by extending intractability to cover quantum computers using math puzzles that cannot be broken by two known quantum algorithms: Shor’s and Grover’s). The challenge is there may be new quantum algorithms and processes that will break even PQC math puzzles (which were only designed to resist Shor’s and Grover’s algorithms). But you cannot design PQC to resist yet-to-be discovered algorithms and processes… so it becomes a game of cat and mouse which will quickly become very expensive and would require increased computational and power capacity. The result, a never-ending arms race between Crypto math puzzles and quantum computers. While the digital economy would not be totally defenseless with PQC, stakeholders would never know when it was broken (and they would always have to be looking).

One recent paper Two quantum Ising algorithms for the Shortest Vector Problem: one for now and one for later supports this view. It describes a new adiabatic quantum process and Ising algorithm that can solve the Shortest Vector Problem (SVP) and break the security of seemingly “quantum-intractable” Post-Quantum Cryptography. SVP is a complex mathematical problem that is the foundation for many PQC algorithms. These algorithms were developed to resist Shore’s and Grover’s algorithms and extend intractability from classic PKI to quantum computers. Lattice crypto is one such at-risk algorithm family that, ironically enough, is a top contender for NIST certification.

At Quantropi, we believe that the only way to counter quantum is with quantum. For example, our proprietary Quantum Entropy Expansion and Propagation (QEEP) solution provides a new, innovative alternative for securing data against the quantum threat. QEEP achieves key distribution in perfect secrecy so you never have to worry that your keys will be broken somewhere down the road. No mathematical weaknesses, only unbreakable quantum – that’s QEEP.

Post-Quantum Cryptography and the Issues with Crypto Agility

PQC supporters argue they can address the above challenges by adopting “crypto agile” solutions, i.e. switch between Post-Quantum Cryptography families if one is suddenly broken. Sure, crypto agility sounds great, but even this approach has fundamental problems. One is the lack of forward secrecy. Bad actors are constantly intercepting and storing encrypted communications today and decrypting them later. Thus, even if lattice-based Post-Quantum Cryptography is used to send some sensitive information, if it gets intercepted (and stored) today, it won’t matter whether or not you change to another crypto tomorrow. It will be too late. Once a quantum computer becomes commercially available, the intercepted information can be decrypted.

Another issue is that currently, we have very little insight into quantum algorithms and what’s possible in the future. We’re now closer than we’ve ever been to seeing commercially available quantum computers, and practitioners are looking for practical new algorithms. This future quantum computer will compute/operate in a high-dimensional space, but our current efforts to defend our systems and data with PQC happen in lower dimensions. This is the core problem. Moreover, lattice-based Post-Quantum Cryptography has already been broken, and as the SVP paper shows, other algorithms may soon be discovered that could break the current security claims of PQC.

In short, Crypto agility has its merits, however, in cases where information is highly sensitive or needs to remain secret for longer periods of time, more weight is put on the requirement of forward secrecy.

In short, crypto agility is not a solution, and it never will be.

Fighting Quantum with Quantum: Quantum Entropy Expansion and Propagation aka QEEP

Unlike PQC, Quantum Entropy Expansion and Propagation™ (QEEP) provides guaranteed unbreakable security and perfect secrecy in key distribution over any distance. QEEP™ derives its security from the uncertainty principle, not from mathematical puzzles. And it can work on today’s Internet infrastructure which provides a cost-effective and straightforward upgrade path to quantum security. While the debates around PQC’s real-world applicability continue to rage on, QEEP™ already provides a high-entropy, high-speed, and affordable solution against tomorrow’s quantum threats today.

For technical details, check out our white paper: Quantum Entropy Expansion and Propagation Overview.

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Marco Pagani

Marco Pagani began his long and successful career as a senior executive in Ottawa’s high-tech sector in 1985, with Nortel Networks (then Bell-Northern Research). He rose across two decades to become president of several Nortel Business Units, managing more than 2,000 employees and over $1 billion in revenue. Having gone on to advise numerous organizations, as well as guide a range of companies through complex, critically necessary turnarounds, he is particularly respected for placing a strong emphasis on ethics and corporate governance in building the culture of the corporate and not-for-profit organizations he leads and supports.

Nick Kuang

As VP Corporate Services, Nick plans, directs and coordinates a wide range of activities aimed at achieving Quantropi’s vision of the Quantum Internet. He has a keen interest in transformative technologies and the possibilities they offer for bettering our everyday lives. A pharmacist by training, Nick nurtures teams with a focus on integrity and collaborative effort, coupled with strong attention to detail. With prior experience in a successful biotech start-up developing point-of-care test kits, he enjoys the fast pace and challenge of the start-up environment.

Dr. Randy Kuang

Randy holds a doctorate in quantum physics. His research findings have been published in top international journals and named “Kuang’s semi-classical formalism” by NASA in 2012. With a career spanning IT, including with Nortel as senior network researcher & developer, he co-founded inBay Technologies in 2009, serving as CTO of the cybersecurity platform. As the first recipient of a patent for two-level authentication (2011), Randy is a prolific inventor, with 30+ U.S. patents in broad technology fields, such as WiMAX, optical networks, multi-factor identity authentication, transaction authorization, as well as concepts, technologies and industrial applications for quantum key distribution.

Cory Michalyshyn

Cory brings a breadth of experience to the Quantropi team, working fractionally with multiple SaaS technology companies as CFO, and as the CFO with Celtic House Venture Partners. Prior to these roles, Cory was CFO and COO at Solink, and played a lead role in the metrics-led pivot to a direct-sales SaaS model, followed by multiple VC-backed funding rounds and their recognition as one of the fastest growing start-ups in Canada. He qualified as a CPA while serving technology, VC & PE-fund clients at Deloitte, and earned his Bachelor of Commerce at Queen’s University.

Ken Dobell

Ken leads marketing strategy at Quantropi. In high demand as a consultant with 25 years’ experience in performance media and an award- winning creative background, he has completed successful transformations, (re)branding and product development mandates with KPMG, Keurig, Fidelity, Eddyfi, Coveo, and more, and provides digital advice to the CMA. Previously, Ken pivoted an offline advertising brokerage to a leading-edge, data-driven performance agency as President of DAC Digital, held a progression of international leadership roles with, pioneered a range of multi-channel initiatives as VP Marketing with a global franchisor, and introduced a mobile-first programmatic media offering to Canada within WPP.

Raj Narula, P.Eng.

A seasoned technology executive, business builder and angel investor, Raj has held operational and advisory roles in Recognia (Trading Central), Belair Networks (Ericsson), March Networks (Infinova), Sandvine (Procera), Neurolanguage (ADEC), Bridgewater Systems (Amdocs), Vayyoo (Cafex), TenXc (CCI), 1Mobility (Qualys) and others. Having divided his time among North America, EMEA and Asia-Pac for over 20 years, Raj speaks several languages. He grew up in Asia, Europe, South America and Canada, and holds a B.Eng degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Ottawa. He is also a co-founder and Charter Member of the Ottawa chapter of TiE (the Indus Entrepreneur).

Michael Redding

Before joining Quantropi, Mike was Managing Director and co-founder of Accenture Ventures, where he grew a global portfolio of strategic partnerships and 38 equity investments in emerging technology startups.

During his nearly 30 years with Accenture, he incubated and launched technology innovations for enterprises across multiple geographies and industries. Ever-passionate about bold ideas with game-changing results, he speaks frequently on the impact of emerging technology on large organizations.

With a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton, and a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern, Mike is a former member of the Board of Directors for the Accenture Foundation and Board Observer for startups Maana and Splice Machine.

Alex He

Alex is a product-oriented project manager who bridges the gaps between the company’s engineering and commercial teams. He has over ten years of experience in the analysis, design and development of enterprise-class applications, with a particular focus on creating optimal user experiences (UX). Ever passionate about cybersecurity solutions that can deliver solid security without unreasonably sacrificing customer convenience, Alex is the lead inventor of a registered patent on user interface security. He is committed to helping ensure that the Agile software engineering team at Quantropi delivers consistently high-quality, high crypto-agility cybersecurity solutions for next-generation communications.

Tina Wang

Tina develops websites and participates in a range of different projects, using new frameworks for front-end UI, along with Vuejs, Angula, Beego, Ruby on Rails, and Electron. She developed Quantropi’s desktop CipherSpace application by integrating Electron, Webassembly and Go, to ensure a good user experience, as well as perfect operating system compatibility. She is also part of the dynamic and efficient QKD-NODE project team. Tina is always looking for new ways to increase her knowledge, improve her technological proficiency and enhance her strong execution and implementation skills. Prior to Quantropi, Tina served as a full-stack web developer at Sunny Future, where she maintained a WordPress home site and managed the release of new content for the company.

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Bond Vo

Bond Vo is the Business Analyst of Quantropi. Along with Quantropi, Bond has been dynamic in accordance with a fast and evolving startup environment and is responsible in a wide range of areas including market research, funding, and more involved in the controller roles to oversee day to day accounting operation as well as build financing models and budget to achieve company’s ultimate goals/objectives. Bond has applied best practices consistently and successfully supports equity, debt, and non-dilutive funding for Quantropi since joint the team. He earned a Bachelor of Commerce concentrated in Finance from Carleton University. Outside of his professional career, Bond also participated in volunteer for the Vietnamese Immigration Student Association (VISA) to help and support students as well as newcomers in Canada.

Pauline Arnold

As James Nguyen’s EA, Pauline Arnold brings more than 40 years of experience in complementary customer service and administrative roles. Prior to Quantropi, she served 20 years as Branch Manager and an assistant in investments, and over 20 years at Metropolitan Life Canada in various aspects of the insurance sector – assisting clients, management and colleagues to complete tasks, solve problems, address questions and achieve goals. She also worked part-time for Royal Lepage Performance for 5+ years as a receptionist & admin, and for 5 years was chair of the TKFG’s charity golf tournament.

Dafu Lou

Dafu is Quantropi’s Director of engineering. Prior to Quantropi, he served as a technical leader at Irdeto, a world-leading provider of digital platform security software, where he was responsible for white-box cryptography, cloaked CA secure core, and iOS/android application protection services, among others. Prior to Irdeto, Dafu served as a senior software engineer at SecureNex Systems, where he led the implementation of an SSL-VPN solution and ECC-based secure data storage & PKI. He earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Ottawa in 2009. Dafu is also a part-time professor, teaching VLSI, Cryptography and other subjects at uOttawa.

Christopher McKenzie

With his extensive experience in software development and strong analytical skills, Chris can handle the entire end-to-end software development life cycle. Prior to Quantropi, he served as Director of Product Development at Sphyrna Security, Inc., where he managed the delivery of security compliance automation and data diode appliance products, and as Commercial Software Development Manager at Cord3, Inc., where he managed the development of an advanced data access policy management product. Chris graduated from Computer Science at Algonquin College and the Ottawa School of Arts in 1998. Read less

Eric Chan

Eric Chan a.k.a. EEPMON is a Crypto / Digital Artist with 15 years in the industry – and Quantropi’s Creative Emissary. His hybrid fractal/digital creations have been seen in fashion, comics to museums and has exhibited worldwide. EEPMON’s collaborations include Canada Goose, MARVEL, Snoopy, Microsoft Xbox, Canada Science & Technology Museum and was a TEDx performing artist. In 2018 he represented Canada on its first Creative Industries Trade Mission led by Canada’s Minister of Heritage and serves on the Canadian Museums Association‘s Board of Directors. At the same time, he is currently completing his Master of Information Technology – Digital Media at Carleton University. 

Patricio Mariaca

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James Nguyen

Prior to leading Quantropi, James was Chief Investment Officer & VP Asia Operations for a group of private and public real estate, mining, energy storage, graphene technologies and manufacturing interests, where, in his responsibilities for strategy, banking and global expansions, he secured large-scale investments and partnerships for commercializing graphene applications across multiple industries. A graduate of Carleton in Economics, he previously achieved success managing a mid-market portfolio (professional services, public sector, Asian markets) at RBC for over a decade. James has been on the HKCBA board, held advisory positions with technology start-ups and gives back as volunteer, fundraiser and mentor.