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Google experiments with post-quantum cryptography

On Thursday, Google announced that it has begun experimenting with post-quantum cryptography on its Chrome browser with the aim of preventing quantum hacking.

The company is currently testing its new style of encryption key over a small number of connections between Chrome and Google's servers. Current security measures are still in place and would still keep user data safe if the new post-quantum cryptography was bypassed.

Quantum computers are capable of solving problems much faster than today's binary computers as they make use of certain aspects of quantum physics. They would easily be able to crack the secure digital connections that exist today but at present the quantum computers that do exist are small and experimental. However, a number of large tech companies including Google, IBM, Microsoft and Intel have begun working on designing their own.

Matt Braithwaite, a software engineer at Google, has written a blog post on the company's site titled Experimenting with Post-Quantum Cryptography in which he explains how this new form of encryption should be able to stand up to attacks from large quantum computers:

“If large quantum computers can be built then they may be able to break the asymmetric cryptographic primitives that are currently used in TLS, the security protocol behind HTTPS,” he wrote. “A hypothetical, future quantum computer would be able to retrospectively decrypt any internet communication that was recorded today, and many types of information need to remain confidential for decades.”

For the experiment, Google is using the “New Hope” post-quantum algorithm which was developed by Erdem Alkim, Léo Ducas, Thomas Pöppelmann and Peter Schwabe.

It is currently enabled in Chrome Canary and users can see if it is being used by accessing the browser's Security Panel and looking for “CECPQ1”.

Image Credit: antb / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.