Preventing Quantum Computers from Breaking Security

June 5, 2024
Though quantum computers will accelerate computation to levels that far surpass conventional systems, they also present cybersecurity risks to existing encryption.
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What you’ll learn:

  • Why quantum computers can break existing cryptography.
  • How encryption on conventional computers can thwart quantum-computer code breaking.


Quantum computing is still in its infancy, but it promises to solve many problems more quickly than possible with conventional computing systems. One area that’s garnered a lot of attention is how quantum computers will be able to break our existing encryption in a matter of hours or less.

I talked with Bart Stevens, Senior Director of Product Marketing at RAMBUS (see the video above), about NIST’s post-quantum cryptography (PQC) as well as how new encryption algorithms are being designed to make it harder for quantum computers to be used to break these codes.

NIST’s Quantum-Resistant Plan of Attack

Addressing cybersecurity is one of the tasks of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In 2002, “NIST Announces First Four Quantum-Resistant Cryptographic Algorithms” highlighted the emerging standard for encryption support that’s resistant to cracking by quantum computers.

NIST selected the CRYSTALS-Kyber algorithm for general encryption needs like that used for secure, HTTPS website access. It can utilize small encryption keys for two-party communication.

The other common cryptography task includes digital signatures used to sign documents and transactions. The three algorithms selected for this task are CRYSTALS-DilithiumFALCON, and SPHINCS+. The first is the primary recommendation at this time, while FALCON provides security using smaller signatures.

Existing public key systems employ large prime factorization that’s very hard to break using conventional brute-force mechanisms. However, it’s something quantum computers can do extremely fast. SPHINCS+ employs a hashing approach while the other three quantum-resistant algorithms use a structured lattice approach.

Encryption protocols need to be expanded to utilize the new encryption standards and hardware. Moreover, software is needed to implement the encryption algorithms. The standards aren’t yet set in stone, but that will likely come to fruition in the near future. Significant work is being done to evaluate the algorithms and finalize the standards.

Check out more videos/articles in the TechXchange: Quantum Computing and Security.

About the Author

William G. Wong | Senior Content Director - Electronic Design and Microwaves & RF

I am Editor of Electronic Design focusing on embedded, software, and systems. As Senior Content Director, I also manage Microwaves & RF and I work with a great team of editors to provide engineers, programmers, developers and technical managers with interesting and useful articles and videos on a regular basis. Check out our free newsletters to see the latest content.

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Check out my blog, AltEmbedded on Electronic Design, as well as his latest articles on this site that are listed below. 

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I earned a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Masters in Computer Science from Rutgers University. I still do a bit of programming using everything from C and C++ to Rust and Ada/SPARK. I do a bit of PHP programming for Drupal websites. I have posted a few Drupal modules.  

I still get a hand on software and electronic hardware. Some of this can be found on our Kit Close-Up video series. You can also see me on many of our TechXchange Talk videos. I am interested in a range of projects from robotics to artificial intelligence. 

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