Dustin Moody (a mathematician at NIST) says that the threat of a nation state adversary getting large quantum computers and being able access to your information is real. They could copy your encrypted data and keep it on their computer until they get a quantum computer.
Officials are now trying to devise and deploy new encryption algorithms in order to protect secrets from an emerging class powerful machines, while also addressing the harvest now and decrypt later strategy. This includes the Department of Homeland Security. It claims it is making a difficult transition to post-quantum cryptography.
We don't want to be in a situation where one day there is a technological breakthrough and the next we have to do all of the work that took three to four years.
DHS has released a roadmap for the transition. It begins with a call to catalog the most sensitive data within the government as well as the business world. Maurer believes this is a crucial first step in identifying which sectors are doing it already and which ones need help or awareness to ensure they do so now.
Prepare in advance
Experts believe it will be at least ten years before quantum computers can do anything useful. However, with so much money flowing into the field in the US and China, it is possible to make it happen and to create better protections against quantum attacks.
The US, through NIST, has been holding a contest since 2016 that aims to produce the first quantum-computer-proof algorithms by 2024, according to Moody, who leads NISTs project on post-quantum cryptography.
It is difficult and time-consuming to transition to new cryptography. It can be difficult for non-profit organizations to invest in a future threat that is far away.
Maurer says that organizations should not be rushing to make the transition.