LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The world’s efforts to secure digital communications from the threat posed by quantum computers took a significant leap forward today as a new standard for quantum-safe Virtual Private Networks (VPN) was ratified by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
The new protocol has already been used by Banque de France and Deutsche Bundesbank to secure payments messages, paving the way for full adoption by the Bank for International Settlements to secure communications between the world’s central banks.
‘Harvest Now Decrypt Later’ (HNDL) attacks currently represent the greatest quantum cybersecurity threat. These attacks see hostile actors steal encrypted data now which can be decrypted once a sufficiently mature quantum computer comes online. The new US Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Preparedness Act states that the HNDL risk presents the highest threat to humankind and stipulates that quantum migration must start now. Deploying a VPN based on new post quantum cryptography is the easiest way to protect data-in-transit from such attacks.
The new IETF standard specifies how VPNs can exchange communications securely in the quantum age. The novel approach prioritises interoperability by making it possible for multiple post-quantum and classical encryption algorithms to be incorporated into VPNs. Combining both old and new encryption is essential to ensure no disruption to the functioning of existing IT systems, and to protect data from attack by both classical and quantum computers.
This is a particularly important milestone for internet connectivity and security as we are transitioning from an era where the world relied upon just one or two algorithms (RSA and Elliptic Curve), to a situation where different nation states are deploying a wide variety of different post-quantum algorithms. This new IETF standard is the glue that allows parties using different public key encryption algorithms to talk with one another.
The new IETF standard was proposed and designed by Post-Quantum, a British cyber security company that’s built a portfolio of market-ready quantum-safe cyber security products. Post-Quantum’s own Hybrid PQ VPN uses the new IETF standard and is already in use by NATO to secure its communications from quantum attack, supporting interoperable communications between NATO members.
CJ Tjhai, CTO, Post-Quantum and original author of the new IETF standard said: “I’d like to thank all the technologists that collaborated with us on this IETF standard. Much of the focus has been on NIST’s new post quantum encryption algorithms themselves, but this is insufficient unless you have a protocol that defines how the connectivity is done. The easiest way to prevent Harvest Now Decrypt Later attacks is to deploy a PQ VPN based on the new IETF standard. NIST’s new algorithms are only useful if we have agreed standards for their use and mature products that can accommodate them.”
Andersen Cheng, Executive Chairman, Post-Quantum added: “CJ and his collaborators have completed important work that makes it possible for tech companies to build quantum-safe VPNs that communicate to one another. We are entering a period where different countries are now recommending different encryption algorithms, so engineering our communications infrastructure to be interoperable and backward compatible is absolutely crucial. That’s the value our own VPN is bringing to organisations like NATO, a diverse member organisation with a variety of post-quantum algorithms in use.
“In the commercial sector, we are pleased that Banque de France and Deutsche Bundesbank have also recently completed their project in transmitting payment messages using our protocol, which will pave the way for the Bank for International Settlements to build a complete chain of trust for central bank applications to counter any HNDL risks they already face today.”
José María Lucía Moreno, Lead Partner, EY Wavespace and a Post-Quantum partner added: “Our agreement with Post-Quantum is an important step in helping EY and its clients to become quantum-safe. We’re increasingly consulting with our clients to identify where they use traditional encryption that will need to be upgraded, and to help them prepare for the quantum era. Post-Quantum’s approach is particularly interesting because they have modular software-based products like the VPN, which can be implemented together, or as standalones within existing environments, to offer protection today.”
The IETF is the non-profit organisation with responsibility for developing the standards that define how the internet is built and used. Now that the IETF has ratified this work, VPN providers will adapt their protocols to match it, making this a defining standard for the future of cybersecurity as the world transitions from classical to new post-quantum encryption. Ratification represents the culmination of work dating back to 2017 when Post-Quantum took the lead in creating the original proposal for this standard.
Notes to editors
A VPN uses public-key encryption to create a secure virtual tunnel within a network, ensuring that only the correct recipient can decrypt the communication (any intercepted data remains encrypted and is therefore unusable). Such software is increasingly relied upon to protect remote workers logging-on outside traditional office environments.
Post-Quantum is upgrading the world to next-generation encryption. Our quantum-safe platform includes modular software for Identity, Transmission and Encryption that protect organisations across their entire digital footprint. Products are interoperable, backward compatible and crypto-agile - ensuring a smooth transition to the next generation of encryption.
Post-Quantum works with organisations in defence, critical national infrastructure and financial services, including a multi-year relationship with NATO to ensure its communications are secure against quantum attack.
The company is the inventor of NTS-KEM, a code-based post-quantum algorithm. Now known as Classic McEliece following the merger with the submission led by Professor Daniel Bernstein, it is currently in round four of the NIST competition. The company is also the original author of the Internet Engineering Taskforce (IETF) standards for a Hybrid Post-Quantum Virtual Private Network.
As IETF defines how the internet functions, it is critical that more and more of the components will become quantum-safe in due course. The Company is proactively working on and proposing several new standards to IETF which will help shape how the internet will operate in a post-quantum world.