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Preparing for the Benefits and Risks of Quantum Computing – Together

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By Jim Clarke, Director of Quantum Hardware, and Sridhar Iyengar, Vice President of Intel Labs and Director of Security and Privacy Research

Quantum computing has enormous potential to improve human lives, the environment, the economy, material science and much more by utilizing computational power on a scale that traditional computers cannot ever match. At Intel, we envision great possibilities for quantum computing while also recognizing its risks.

The world’s digital economy is secured by symmetric key cryptography used to protect data and user credentials, and public key cryptography used to protect Internet communications. A quantum computer of sufficient strength can weaken the former and completely break the latter. While quantum computers are still several years away, adversaries are harvesting and saving today’s encrypted data and communication traffic with the expectation that one day they will be able to break the encryption and access personal and other confidential and sensitive information. This is why Intel has robust programs to develop new quantum-resistant encryption technologies, also known as post-quantum cryptography. We must act now to collaborate on these advances in cryptography in anticipation of the advent of quantum computers.

Today, we announced at Intel Vision that we are developing built-in crypto acceleration in the 3rd Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable platform for next-generation security, extending our commitment to the quantum era with post-quantum cryptography. These new classes of cryptography are resistant even to quantum computers.

In addition, Intel has developed the following three-phased approach to address the threats posed by adversaries with quantum computers: 

  • To address the immediate threat of data harvesting and to help protect our customers’ data, Intel is increasing the key size for symmetric crypto algorithms such as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
  • To further increase the robustness of Intel products, Intel is hardening the code-signing algorithms and the authentication of firmware and software. This helps establish a quantum-resistant root-of-trust in Intel hardware.
  • To secure Internet communication, Intel is engaging the standards bodies such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Internet Engineering Task Force to develop, harden and accelerate technologies like key-encapsulation and digital-signature algorithms. These help secure transactions over the Web against adversaries with quantum computers.

We believe we have a shared responsibility to advance the potential of quantum computing while simultaneously protecting our critical data and infrastructure from quantum adversaries. This will require the entire ecosystem to bring ingenuity and collaboration to find solutions.

The U.S. government is already taking important action by enhancing its efforts to address quantum, with the announcement last week of two Presidential Directives on Advancing Quantum Technologies - the Executive Order on Enhancing the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee and a National Security Memorandum.

The EO enhances the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee, on which Jim Clarke has served for the past two years, coordinating quantum efforts across the executive branch and with industry and academia pursuant to the National Quantum Initiative Act. At the same time, the National Security Memorandum recognizes the risks of quantum technologies – principally, the ability of a quantum computer to weaken or break current encryption, thereby compromising sensitive data that can be used by adversaries.

We value the opportunity to collaborate with the administration and our ecosystem partners in this mission to advance quantum computing and transition to post-quantum cryptography.