Google is working on post-quantum encryption for its Chrome internet browser, it announced today in a blog post by software engineer Matt Braithwaite.
Quantum computers use advanced aspects of quantum physics to solve problems many times faster than today’s binary computers. This means modern encryption, like the current internet HTTPS, would not be able to stand up to quantum attacks.
However, Quantum computers are only experimental today, and it is not certain that a large quantum computer capable of that kind of attack would ever be built. But, according to Brithwaite, the issue is that even a hypothetical quantum computer could “retrospectively decrypt any internet communication that was recorded today…thus even the possibility of a future quantum computer is something that we should be thinking about today.”
Google’s post-quantum cryptography, which aims to address the issue, has already been rolled out over a small number of connections between Chrome and Google’s servers. The new style of encryption key was under testing alongside current security measures. In the event the key proved successful, Google claims it should stand up to future quantum computers.
According to commentators, though there existed hardware defences against the vastly superior computing power of quantum machines, Google is deploying a so-called post-quantum key-exchange algorithm. The software, called the New Hope algorithm, has been enabled in Chrome Canary, a kind of testing ground for new browser technology, on a few connections between the browser and Google servers.
“While they will, no doubt, be of huge benefit in some areas of study, some of the problems that they [quantum computers] are effective at solving are the ones that we use to secure digital communications,” writes Braithwaite. “Specifically, 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.”