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New signature tech defies quantum computer attacks

Ed Adams

A digital signature technology that claims to be immune from quantum computer attacks has received a global patent.

Not only is the technology, called NTRUSign, more secure than existing digital signature solutions, tout its makers, Security Innovation, of Wilmington. MA, but it's faster than them, too.

Traditional digital signature cryptography that uses RSA with SSL tends to slow down data transmissions and will be able to be broken by quantum computing attacks, the company explained in a statement. The NTRUSign public key cryptography digital signature algorithm — which was awarded patent 7,913,088 for secure electronic communication and document identification — is based on a mathematical problem known as the Approximate Closest Vector Problem, making it up to 200 times faster than RSA and resistant to quantum computing attacks.

Unlike conventional computers that depend on two states to transfer information — on/off or 0/1 — quantum computers can manipulate data in many states. What's more, quantum computers can manage those states simultaneously, allowing them to be millions of times faster than even a supercomputer.

Although some basic quantum computers have been built, practical ones are many years away. However, the thought of such a machine gives cryptologists nightmares because brute force attacks believed to be impossible could suddenly become a reality.

“Law firms have been storing more and more documents electronically and financial services companies have engaged in more Internet transactions, which will increase exponentially with the coming of ‘mobile wallets,’" stated Security Innovation's CEO Ed Adams. "These markets need a level of security that will match the longevity of the data and the extremely high-volume of transactions.”

While the rise of quantum computing will be a shock to the cryptographic world, it need not be a security Ragnarok. "It does not appear inevitable that quantum computing will end cryptographic security as we know it," Ray A. Pernier and David A. Cooper wrote in a paper for the National Institute of Standards and Technoology.

"Quantum computing is, however, a major threat that we probably will need to deal with in the next few decades, and it would be unwise to be caught off guard when that happens," they added.