Quantum computing is maturing fast, and if experts are right, commercially viable quantum computers may become available as early as 2030, or even sooner. The race to achieve quantum advantage is driving massive investments into the quantum field, resulting in rapid advancements and powerful use cases.
Unlike conventional computers, quantum computers think in quantum bits, which allows them to solve problems significantly faster. In 2019, Google reported that its Sycamore processor could solve a math problem in less than 4 minutes that would take today’s conventional computers 10,000 years to solve. With computational power now reaching 400+ qubits with IBM’s latest, Osprey (433-qubits), we are looking at exponentially higher problem-solving speed and potential in quantum computers.
The Quantum Threat to Current Cryptography
Despite the enormous opportunities that quantum computing presents, there is little doubt that it also poses a serious threat to today’s public key cryptography. Experts believe that large-scale quantum computers will be capable of breaking today’s encryption mechanisms with relative ease.
For instance, the RSA algorithm, widely used to protect banking, e-commerce, and telecommunications operates on prime-number factorization, which today’s traditional computer will take thousands of years to solve. However, a large-scale quantum computer could perform prime-number factorization at a much faster rate and break the algorithm within minutes.
PKI algorithms, such as RSA, DSA, ECC, and Diffie-Hellman, form the foundation of internet security, ensuring authenticity, confidentiality, and integrity of data. They are used to secure a wide variety of enterprise use cases today, including website security, code signing, IoT, VPNs, digital signatures, and email encryption. Breaking these algorithms would leave all sensitive encrypted data exposed to eavesdropping, decryption, and data breaches. This would mean that national security secrets, healthcare information, financial and intellectual property, and Personal Identifiable Information (PII) would no longer be safe!
Considering these threats and the pace at which quantum is advancing, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is hard at work developing quantum-resistant algorithms. The first set of post-quantum cryptography (PQC) algorithms was announced in July last year and the standardization of all algorithms is expected to be completed by 2024.
Once the standardization is complete, organizations will be compelled to migrate their systems to post-quantum algorithms to avoid encryption compromises, data breaches, and compliance violations.
Cryptography migrations can be complex and costly. If not planned well, migrations can take months or even years. To avoid delays and ensure seamless migration, organizations are urged to start preparing for it today with a strong PQC migration strategy.
Why Crypto-Agility Is a Must for Post-Quantum Migration and Cybersecurity
As organizations develop their PQC migration plan, a critical first step is to become crypto-agile. Crypto-agility is the ability to quickly switch between cryptographic standards without disrupting mission-critical operations. Being able to rapidly update algorithms and respond to changing crypto-standards helps organizations remain one-step ahead of post-quantum threats and security risks.
Top 5 Reasons to Become Crypto-Agile Today
- Sudden cryptographic failures leave entire systems and applications exposed. The longer it takes to identify and replace the vulnerable certificates, the higher the risk of exposure.
- Crypto-standards continue to evolve and older and weaker standards are replaced with newer and safer versions – RSA 1024 by RSA-2048, SHA-1 by SHA-2, and TLS 1.2 by TLS 1.3. Continuing to use weak standards increases security risks.
- NIST-approved post-quantum cryptography (PQC) standards might soon replace the existing standards, requiring immediate, full-fledged migration.
- Vulnerabilities in PQC might be discovered, necessitating frequent cryptographic updates.
- Regulations around the use of cryptography now and in the quantum era will further expand, requiring organizations to be more agile and continuously compliant.
Benefits of Being Crypto-Agile
- Enables organizations to react easily and quickly to current and future crypto threats.
- Helps systematically migrate a wide array of instances to PQC, avoiding the need for expensive security retrofitting.
- Enables organizations to be continuously compliant and secure as cryptography evolves.
- Provides better visibility and insights into cryptography used across the organization, making risk assessment easier and more efficient.
- Provides a single, central process for managing assets and their digital certificates efficiently.
- Enables organizations to meet post-quantum and zero trust security requirements together.
- Promotes the use of automation, improving productivity and operational efficiency.
Practical Checklist for Achieving Crypto-Agility
Assess and Build an Inventory of Crypto Assets
Discover all crypto assets, such as digital certificates, keys, and crypto libraries used in your organization and identify the hardware, software, or services they are protecting. Knowing where your crypto assets are and the data they secure helps scope the impact of evolving crypto-standards, including post-quantum cryptography, and mitigate the risk of weak, rogue or non-compliant certificates.
Achieve Complete Visibility
Create a central inventory of all discovered digital certificates with information about their location, expiry date, owner, and Certificate Authority (CA). Analyze them for crypto standards and compliance to identify high-risk instances that need to be switched to newer standards today and post-quantum standards when ready.
Automate Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM)
Responding to crypto changes and requirements quickly, easily, and at scale is vital to minimizing security risks. Manual PKI and certificate lifecycle management processes are error-prone, inefficient, and can cause significant delays in renewing, revoking, and provisioning certificates. Consider automating CLM processes end-to-end to simplify and accelerate the migration process while helping you keep current cryptographic threats at bay.
Establish Policies and Enforce PKI Governance
Establish and enforce organization-wide crypto policies around using, modifying, and retiring cryptographic mechanisms to ensure the use of the most current versions of cryptography. Communicate organizational policies to vendors, resellers, and partners. Educate your workforce and implement automated enforcement of PKI policies to avoid policy violations.
Practice Crypto-Agility Today for a Secure Post-Quantum Tomorrow
As governments and leading technology companies worldwide compete for quantum advantages in the next five to ten years, quantum security threats are bound to grow. The sooner organizations understand and prepare for the threat, the more equipped they will be to address security challenges and thrive in the post-quantum era.
While building crypto-agility is critical for quantum resilience, organizations should become crypto-agile today as a best practice for ensuring their public key infrastructure (PKI) meets enterprise-wide crypto policies for enforcing security standards and keeping their businesses protected and compliant.
Join us for our upcoming webinar as we embark on this journey together, preparing for the future of post-quantum.