Quantum Encryption Replacement Algorithm Hacked by AI


Has the CRYSTALS-Kyber encryption algorithm, one of 4 quantum resistant methods that NIST has recommended to replace legacy encryption, fallen even before it has been rolled out? 

There is news that researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology leveraged AI to break (PDF) CRYSTALS-Kyber.  The vulnerability was reported to be a side-channel attack that provides insights necessary to undermine security by measuring various emissions of a system.

If true, this is a big setback for the longevity of protecting data with encryption!

Traditional encryption schemes rely on specific math problems that modern computers have great difficulty solving.  But these problems can be compromised with special algorithms running on powerful quantum computers that are rapidly being developed and should be available within the next decade.

In response to this threat, the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) has been working for years to evaluate suitable replacements that can resist such quantum attacks.  After an exhaustive search for quantum-resistant replacements, in 2022 NIST identified CRYSTALS-Kyber as one of four algorithms chosen to supplant current schemes, and the only method designated for general encryption duties, while the other three focus on digital signatures.

This may doom CRYSTALS-Kyber if it cannot be sufficiently protected, thus leaving a big gap in how the world will need to protect data.  The race has been ongoing, with quantum computers rapidly increasing in power, and approaching the point where they will be able to break the locks that protect vast amounts of sensitive digital data and transactions.  This attack may send NIST and quantum encryption researchers back several steps in their efforts to find suitable replacements before the underpinnings of digital communication and security are attacked from quantum computers.   

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Matthew Rosenquist
Matthew Rosenquist

Cybersecurity Strategist specializing in the evolution of threats, opportunities, and risks in pursuit of optimal security for our digital world.

Cybersecurity Tomorrow
Cybersecurity Tomorrow

Cybersecurity strategy perspectives for the emerging risks and opportunities of securing our digital world. The insights of today will lead to tomorrow's security, privacy, and safety foundations.

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