Protecting data in brave new world of quantum computing

Just how secure are commercial transactions over the internet?  With the advent of quantum computers predicted in the decade, we should be very concerned about cyber security, and start planning for a more secure future.

The National Institute Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the US Department of Commerce, has recently awarded UOW's Professor Willy Susilo research funding  to the tune of USD$293,693 (approx. AUD$390,000).

Prof. Susilo and his colleagues Dr Thomas Plantard and Dr Guomin Yang, are working on a 3-year project entitled “On the Structure of Lattices for Post-quantum Cryptography” and are aiming  to construct algorithms which will remain secure even after quantum computers are built.

Currently, in secure electronic commerce we use the well-known algorithm RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) which is a very popular public key cryptography algorithm.

This algorithm relies on the difficulty of factoring integers.

However after the invention of Shor’s algorithm, it has been shown that complex problems such as factorisation and discrete logarithms can be solved if quantum computers exist.

“According to NIST, the existence of quantum computers is predicted be in existence sooner rather than later. So current algorithms that help make our transactions secure will become powerless,” Professor Susilo said.

“There is now an urgent need to find new algorithms.”

Professor Susilo aims to submit quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms to NIST by the end of 2017. 

NIST will then select an algorithm from all the public submissions for standardisation.

It's been a successful year for Prof. Susilo who was also awarded the Vice-Chancellor's Researcher of the Year Award (2016) - shared with Prof. Zhengyi Jiang.