Very interesting stuff! Certainly making use of parallel processing seems to make sense as it seems that for the foreseeable future computing performance increases will occur primarily by putting multiple processors in parallel.
|Nothing occurs in a vacuum, and the release of the first commercially available 128-qubit quantum-based computer last year by Canadian company D-Wave met not only a barrage of scepticism. It also led one Australian developer to do a radical rethink of computer security.|
By Brad Howarth, July 25, 2012
A qubit is a unit of quantum information. Quantum computing promises to deliver computers that are many times more powerful than conventional machines by drawing on the properties of quantum physics, where matter can exist in two states simultaneously. This enables multiple simultaneous calculations.
One of the potential uses is to break commonly-used public-key encryption and signature schemes, and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
It was this hypothetical eventuality that first led researchers Dr Stuart Christmas and Russell Leidich to begin considering ways of counteracting future quantum computer-based attacks as far back as the late 1990s. Now working for the Australian-born mobile development company TigerSpike, the pair has developed a new form of encryption designed to supersede AES.
"Those things [quantum computers] can pretty much smash AES as it stands now," Dr Christmas said.
He said one method of defending against attack via a quantum computer might be to double the length of the password used, but this could lead to passwords that were thousands of characters long.
"And what goes along with increasing the key length like that is massive reductions in speed," Dr Christmas said. "So we decided to start from scratch and come up with something that is not only resistant to quantum attack, but also doesn't get slower as you make it more secure."
The result is a highly parallel encryption system using conventional computing technology, dubbed Karacell, which received a provisional patent on June 8.
"Instead of increasing the key length, you can increase the size of some internal tables that it uses, and you can get the same increase in strength," Dr Christmas said. "And Carousel is designed to be entirely parallel. If you have a mobile phone with four processors in, which Samsung has now, you can encrypt massive amounts of data all at once. As you increase the number of processors it becomes massively fast."
According to the head of innovation at TigerSpike, Oliver Palmer, even before the emergence of quantum computers, it was becoming clear that today's security systems were not designed for the mobile devices now dominating the internet, due to their need for more and more processing power.
"A lot of the technology in use has not been designed for a mobile world – it's just evolved and been squashed into mobile," Palmer said.
While Karacell is a departure from TigerSpike's usual work in mobile application development, Palmer said it fits with his company's longer-term focus and is being funded through an $11 million investment TigerSpike received from Aegis Media last year.
Palmer said Karacell could make systems more secure from all forms of attack. TigerSpike is planning to embed it into its enterprise mobile service delivery platform, Phoenix, to encrypt communication with mobile devices. The company is also investigating how it might encrypt data in public cloud services such as Google Drive and Dropbox, and will release the technology for evaluation.
One researcher who has seen it is National University of Singapore student Shambavi Krishnamurthi, who praised Karacell for its use of the so-called subset sum problem and its implementation of parallel computing.
"That's something that's really good if you think about the concept of future-proofing," Krishnamurthi said.
Dr Christmas said that while the widespread introduction of quantum computing might be some years away, existence of devices such as that from D-Wave, and the purchase of one of their 128-qubit computers by military contracting company Lockheed Martin, made it worth planning for that future today.
"It is still early days, but it is not something that is decades away, it is something that has been built and has been sold," he said.