Quantum Xchange kicked-off the premiere episode of its new video series, Crypto Convos. Through intimate 1:1 video interviews, Crypto Convos will capture informative, engaging, and hopefully entertaining discussions with those on the frontlines of crypto in the age of quantum computing. From technology innovators to policymakers to enterprise decision-makers, discussing the news, trends, and initiatives shaping quantum computing and its supporting ecosystem.
We were fortunate to have as our first distinguished guest, none other than the father of modern public-key cryptography, Dr. Whitfield Diffee. In the world of crypto, it doesn’t get much bigger than Whitfield Diffie. If you use encryption, then you know the Diffie-Hellman key exchange protocol which democratized the use of cryptography and revolutionized the landscape of security in the private sector.
How imminent is the quantum computing threat — the day when a quantum computer can break today’s encryption standards? Why isn’t big business taking the quantum threat seriously? How is public-key encryption like a race track?
These are just a few of the questions and topics covered during episode 1. Highlights follow:
The Threat of Quantum Computing: A Breakdown of Shor’s Algorithm
To fully understand the threat that quantum computing poses to the protection of our data, it is important to give an explanation of Shor’s algorithm, which Dr. Diffie calls “the key contribution of quantum computing to attacking public-key cryptography.” In order to break down Shor’s algorithm in plain language, Dr. Diffie likes to use an analogy that compares public key encryption to a race track. For someone who is in possession of a public key, he notes that “doing encryption is very much like going a certain distance around a race track.” The problem for anyone trying to “get to the end” of this race track is that the length is unknown. With Shor’s algorithm, the length of this race track is identified — and in the world of public keys, decryption can occur.
The Golden Age of Cryptography
We take a moment to highlight the golden age of cryptography. Currently, the most important aspect within cryptography is the “amplifier” attached to the process. Here, a small piece of secret information can be “amplified” by the cryptographic system in a way that Dr. Diffie says it “becomes the security or insecurity of billions of bits of information.” However, with quantum computing, the systems that we currently have for quickly negotiating keys are threatened. Dr. Diffie notes that this will “reduce some aspects of the security that we currently enjoy, in a way that I am not sure we will see how to recover from.”
When Will Corporations Take the Threat of Quantum Computing Seriously?
Quantum Xchange promotes implementing quantum-safe encryption before it’s too late. However, very few big corporations are taking measures to protect their data among the threat of quantum computing. Dr. Diffie explains that it is difficult to predict exactly how long it will take corporations to embrace quantum key distribution, but that the people who already appreciate security tend to work in intelligence. Why? Because “they know what they can do to other people and know what other people can do to them.”
To watch the full conversation, check out Episode 1 of Crypto Convos.