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NIST names four post-quantum cryptography algorithms

NIST has chosen four algorithms designed to withstand the assault of a future quantum computer. Post-quantum cryptographic standard is expected to be finalized in about two years.

The era of quantum computing is dawning with the promise to crack the classical encryption that we rely on. With the world’s fastest supercomputers, it would take around 300 trillion years to break the 2048-bit RSA encryption. A quantum computer would be finished with a similar task in merely eight hours.

The international cybersecurity community has been rushing to adopt new encryption standards to prevent a probable massive leakage of sensitive data and secrets.

“If large-scale quantum computers are ever built, they will be able to break many of the public-key cryptosystems currently in use,” the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) claims.

NIST has finally chosen the first group of encryption tools designed to withstand the assault of a future quantum computer from its six-year competition.

In 2016, the federal agency called upon the world’s cryptographers to devise and then vet encryption methods that could resist an attack from a future quantum computer.

This week, NIST revealed four algorithms designed for two main tasks: general encryption used to protect information exchanged across a public network; and digital signatures used for identity authentication.

“Today’s announcement is an important milestone in securing our sensitive data against the possibility of future cyberattacks from quantum computers,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “

NIST has selected the CRYSTALS-Kyber algorithm for general encryption, naming its speed of operation and comparatively small encryption keys among the main advantages.

For digital signatures, NIST has selected CRYSTALS-Dilithium, FALCON, and SPHINCS+.

“Reviewers noted the high efficiency of the first two, and NIST recommends CRYSTALS-Dilithium as the primary algorithm, with FALCON for applications that need smaller signatures than Dilithium can provide. The third, SPHINCS+, is somewhat larger and slower than the other two, but it is valuable as a backup for one chief reason: It is based on a different math approach than all three of NIST’s other selections,” the agency said.

The four selected encryption algorithms will become part of NIST’s post-quantum cryptographic standard, expected to be finalized in about two years.

NIST encouraged security experts “to explore the new algorithms and consider how their applications will use them, but not to bake them into their systems yet, as the algorithms could change slightly before the standard is finalized.”

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