One of the potential encryption algorithms that was a serious candidate for use in the quantum computing world has been defeated worryingly easily.
The algorithm in question is called SIKE (Supersingular Isogeny Key Encapsulation) and made it through the encryption algorithm competition created by the US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In other words, it was pretty close to becoming the standard encryption algorithm in a world of quantum computing.
However, it took researchers about an hour to break through and steal encryption keys, using nothing but a single-core PC and the power of mathematics.
attack on mathematics
Although SIKE did reasonably well in the government’s analysis, it took researchers from the Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography Group (CSIS) at KU Leuven about an hour to obtain the encryption key.
The report states that they did not try to find a bug in the code, but instead attacked the math that makes up the Supersingular Isogeny Diffie-Hellman (SIDH) algorithm. The algorithm, the researchers explain, is vulnerable to the “glue-and-split” theorem, with the attack using class 2 curves to attack class 1 curves.
“The newly discovered vulnerability is clearly a major blow for SIKE,” confirmed SIKE co-inventor David Jao, professor at the University of Waterloo.
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For their efforts, Microsoft rewarded the researchers, who published their findings in the paper titled “An Efficient Key Recovery Attack on SIDH (Preliminary Version)”, with $50,000.
SIKE was one of four algorithms with the potential to replace those currently in use: RSA, Diffie-Hellman, and Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman, according to the publication. Despite their perceived strength, they can be easily cracked once quantum computers take off. And with these devices expected to hit the mainstream by the end of the decade, now is the time to find a replacement for the algorithms.
Quantum computers are infinitely more powerful than today’s best devices and have the ability to break through today’s toughest encryption algorithms. That prompted governments and scientists around the world to find a solution.
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