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“Industrial projects should already integrate quantum cryptography”

LPresident Biden signed on May 4 an executive orderinstructing the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) [l’organisme américain chargé de définir des standards en matière de sécurité informatique] to prepare the migration of the federal state to the post-quantum world. It will be a question of using quantum encryption algorithms which will resist computers of the same name, supposed, when they exist, to make short work of classical encryption. And yet, the quantum computer capable of this feat does not yet exist and we are not even sure that it will one day exist on a useful scale.

What are the threats pushing the president to act now? There is espionage, because States store encrypted data in the hope of being able to decipher them with a future quantum computer. It’s not a bad calculation. Data does not lose its value so quickly: it is enough to see how making archives public even fifty years later remains sensitive.

A collapse of the balances in the presence

You just have to bend down today to collect encrypted data on the Internet or by hacking companies. One can imagine the manufacturing secrets of hypersonic missiles, for example. There is also the threat of making all communications uncertain overnight when they are cryptographically signed, to authenticate them or to guarantee the integrity of their content.

Imagine tomorrow Russia announcing that it has developed a quantum computer, giving a piece of proof that it is real and announcing that it is thinking about a target: namely, top secret American data on its defensive armament that it will claim to have obtained; it will then not take more – with this single quantum computer – to create a geopolitical collapse of the balances present.

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Industrial projects should already integrate quantum cryptography: from self-driving cars stuffed with electronics to large infrastructures in the making, all these projects must plan for their operation free from the threat of the quantum computer; a car can be kept for five to ten years, an airplane or a boat can be used for twenty to thirty years.

Do we want all this equipment to be scrapped because nothing in its operation is safe, because the commands circulating from one end of the aircraft to the other are not legitimate?

One can answer that it is enough, the day when the quantum computer will arrive, to replace the modules of traditional encryption by their quantum version. But who would have thought, at the time of their construction, to integrate encryption into a software or hardware module that just has to be extracted and replaced?

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