Quantum computing could potentially someday be used to retroactively break any communications that were encrypted with today’s standard encryption algorithms. Google realizes this, and hence, is ensuring that it doesn’t happen. Today, it announced that it has begun to deploy a new type of cryptography called the New Hope algorithm in its Chrome Canary browser that is designed to prevent such decryption attacks. From a report on The Verge: Although quantum computers of this variety are only small and experimental at this stage, Google is taking precautions for the worst case scenario. “While they will, no doubt, be of huge benefit in some areas of study, some of the problems that they [quantum computers] are effective at solving are the ones that we use to secure digital communications,” writes Matt Braithwaite, a Google software engineer, in a blog post. “Specifically, if large quantum computers can be built then they may be able to break the asymmetric cryptographic primitives that are currently used in TLS, the security protocol behind HTTPS.” In other words, quantum computers could undermine the security of the entire internet. Quantum computers promise computational power far exceeding today’s standards by taking advantage of the underpinning physics discipline. So the presence of a hypothetical future quantum computer, Braithwaite adds, puts at risk any and all encrypted internet communication past or present. It’s unclear how secure New Hope (PDF) will prove to be for Chrome, and Braithwaite admits it could be less secure than its existing encryption. But Google says New Hope — developed by researchers Erdem Alkim, Leo Ducas, Thomas Poppelmann and Peter Schwabe — was the most promising of all post-quantum key-exchange software it looked into last year.
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