IBM unveils quantum computing-safe tape drive

August 26, 2019 //By Rich Pell
IBM unveils quantum computing-safe tape drive
IBM Research has developed a quantum computing-safe tape drive designed to address the future risk of when data protected by today's asymmetric encryption methods may become insecure.

The risk, say the researchers, comes from quantum advantage - the point when a quantum computer can perform some particular computation significantly faster than a classical computer. While this is expected to enable dramatic advances in areas such as chemistry, bioinformatics, and artificial intelligence, it will at the same time impact information security.

"State of the art storage technologies, such as magnetic tape drives, use a combination of symmetric and asymmetric encryption to ensure that the data they store remains secure," say IBM researchers. "However, in the future, the security of today's asymmetric encryption techniques will very likely be broken by advances in quantum computing."

At the current rate of progress in quantum computing, it is expected that asymmetric encryption may become insecure within the next 10 to 30 years. While this seems rather far in the future, say the researchers, tape systems are often used to archive data for many years, which is why it's important to begin implementing quantum computing-safe solutions now to provide users sufficient time to migrate to this new technology before their data becomes vulnerable.

To prepare for the impact that quantum computers are expected to have on data security, IBM Research has been developing cryptographic algorithms that are resistant to potential security concerns posed by quantum computers. The algorithms are based on Lattice Cryptography , which is in turn related to a set of mathematical problems that have been studied since the 1980s and have not succumbed to any algorithmic attacks, either classical or quantum (see video below for more on quantum-safe cryptography).

The researchers have developed two quantum resistant cryptographic primitives: Kyber, a secure key encapsulation mechanism, and Dilithium, a secure digital signature algorithm. These two algorithms make up the "Cryptographic Suite for Algebraic Lattices" the researchers call "CRYSTALS," and are candidates in the second round of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Post Quantum Cryptography standardization process.

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