Using Quantum Encryption to Protect Your Company, Systems, Applications… and Grandma

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By Vaclav Vincalek

News over the past few years reveals a quantum leap in interest:

The headlines would lead you to believe that (A) quantum computers are production-ready… (B) quantum computers will replace ‘classical’ computers shortly, and… (C) quantum computers are faster.

As with all headlines, the truth is somewhat different.

Yes, of course, quantum computing is improving rapidly. There’s no question about it. However, let’s not forget that the world of algorithms and supercomputers is evolving as fast as quantum computers. Risks, problems, and attacks grow in strength parallel to our achievements.

The solution? Quantum encryption – that’s using quantum physics to encrypt communications or using encryption resistant to quantum computers. How could this come into play?

Keeping your private communication safe 5, 10, or 100 years from now 

One threat, commonly referred to as Steal Now Crack Later, could arise from using quantum computers to crack the encryption algorithm on any document you’ve sent today (or last week, or sometime in the past). To put it another way, what if you knew that in 2, 3 or maybe 5 years from now, any file, message, or document you sent was being viewed by shady characters – or your competitors – or a rogue government. It could make our current encryption efforts obsolete. Your adversaries may be more than willing to wait.

More and more security professionals are very worried about asymmetric encryption, This uses the method of public/private keys. How does it work?

You create and publish a public key based on two large prime numbers along with an auxiliary value. It’s arbitrary – one is public, one remains a secret. You can share the other key with anyone. When someone wants to communicate you can use the public key to encrypt the message – you’re the only one who can read it. Secure sessions on the Internet typically use asymmetric encryption to securely share (“exchange”) a strong session key that is in turn used to encrypt/decrypt all messages sent between the parties.

In the future, it’s assumed that quantum computers will be able to crack the message encrypted with the public key and gain access to this session key which then allows them to unlock ALL subsequent messages / data that were protected by it. Alternately, the quantum computer could just compute or guess the session key. 

Today’s quantum computers are nowhere near the size (not enough qubits) to crack the asymmetric code and extract the session key or efficiently calculate / guess the key itself.

Cybersecurity vendors are advising companies to start implementing ‘some kind of protection’ now

The starting point for replacement of today’s potentially vulnerable asymmetric encryption algorithms is through upgraded algorithms or new ways (non-algorithmic) to securely exchange the session key.

Encryption using an algorithm that can’t be broken by a quantum computer is referred to as PQC (Post-Quantum Encryption). NIST in the United States launched a PQC standardization process in 2016 and is expected to announce the latest updates in December 2021.

A physical networking alternative to algorithms for key exchange is being explored under the banner of QKD (Quantum Key Distribution). As QKD approaches continue to be researched, they typically focus on the quantum entanglement of photons across fiber optic networks. A lingering challenge has been to distribute it at high speed over today’s Internet. Much research and commercial development is focused on solving this issue, but so far remain short of practical and scalable deployments.

Additionally, implementing the encryption key distribution requires companies to build more infrastructure, which makes the whole endeavour more complex and expensive.

To ward off the potential for the quantum attack to calculate or guess the session key, one solution is to generate a “strong”, truly random number that will act as the encryption key. The challenge starts with a technology which can both generate a high number of truly random numbers AND distribute them over a quantum-secure channel.

The race is on.

Written for Quantropi by Vaclav Vincalek, tech entrepreneur and founder of 555vCTO. Vaclav’s specialty is aligning strategy and technology to enable the overall vision for startups and enterprises.

Outside of this, Vaclav regularly contributes commentary for technology reporters, and hosts Recurrent Patterns, a show where he interviews leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists, authors and others about interesting patterns in business, technology, and culture.

Quantropi believes organizations need to harden their defenses against the “quantum threat” now. While many companies can generate very strong “quantum” random numbers (raw datasets approaching a level of nearly pure randomness according to a number of benchmark tests published by NIST and other standards bodies), Quantropi’s QEaaS solution SEQUR™ enables developers, governments, and enterprises to provision and distribute quantum entropy across any network while keeping it completely secure from classical or quantum theft.

Learn more here.

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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.

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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. 

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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 Monster.com, 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.

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.

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.