While the looming era of quantum computing promises massive increases in processing power, it has also sparked fears that it will render today’s digital security useless. So even as scientists and corporations seek to turn quantum computers into reality, Blackberry is preparing a new set of defenses.
Today, BlackBerry announced what it claims is “quantum-resistant” code signing to its lineup of cryptography tools. Code signing refers to methods of ensuring that software code has not been changed by anyone but the original author.
“Quantum computing will solve groundbreaking problems in health care, transportation, astrophysics, government, and many other fields; however, it also gives bad actors the potential to crack traditional public key cryptosystems and then attack the underlying data they protect,” said Charles Eagan, chief technology officer at BlackBerry, in a statement. “By adding the quantum-resistant code signing server to our cybersecurity tools, we will be able to address a major security concern for industries that rely on assets that will be in use for a long time.”
Just as the world needs dramatically more computing power for things like artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and 5G networks, the tech world fears it is inching closer to the end of Moore’s Law, which projected regulator increases in processing power. That has spawned a race to develop quantum computing by players such as IBM, Microsoft, NASA, a range of startups, and the Chinese government.
Traditional processors allow calculations using a binary state: 1 or 0, a gate is open or closed. But rather than being limited to these two states, quantum computing turns to atomic structures that can exist simultaneously in multiple states. In theory, that offers a massive leap in computing power, though researchers are still trying to find ways to create stable enough conditions for that to become reality.
Still, if the computing leap is made, the concern is that ability to rapidly conduct far more complex calculations will make it easy for quantum computers to crack today’s cryptography schemes. BlackBerry isn’t waiting around. It notes that — particularly for critical infrastructure — systems are often in place for 10 to 15 years, while quantum computing may well come into daily use. And that power could make older systems sitting ducks for hackers.
BlackBerry said the new quantum-resistant code will be available starting in November. It’s intended to target such products and services as industrial controls, aerospace and military electronics, telecommunications, transportation infrastructure, and connected cars.
The company will partner with ISARA Corporation, which will provide cryptographic libraries that are part of its own quantum-safe security solutions.
“Within the next eight to 10 years, experts estimate there will be a large-scale quantum computer capable of breaking today’s public key cryptography,” said Mike Brown, chief technology officer and cofounder of ISARA, in a statement. “The work we’re doing with BlackBerry will give industries with durable connected devices the tools needed to secure their systems now and into the future.”