Google testing new crypto in Chrome to fight quantum hacks
Google is testing on Chrome what it calls “post-quantum cryptography” or a system of cryptographic primitives that are safeguarded against quantum computers.
The search giant has announced a post-quantum key-exchange algorithm called ‘New Hope’ that has been enabled in Chrome Canary. It is a type of testing ground for browsers and is currently being experimented on only a small fraction of connections between desktop Chrome and Google’s servers alongside current security measures. If the key is successful, Google says, it should stand up to future quantum computers.
“Today we’re announcing an experiment in Chrome where a small fraction of connections between desktop Chrome and Google’s servers will use a post-quantum key-exchange algorithm in addition to the elliptic-curve key-exchange algorithm that would typically be used. By adding a post-quantum algorithm on top of the existing one, we are able to experiment without affecting user security,” software engineer Matt Braithwaite wrote in a blogpost.
While still only in their infancy, Quantum computers use advanced aspects of quantum physics to resolve problems exponentially faster than today’s binary computers. That means that modern encryption, like the current internet go-to of HTTPS, wouldn’t stand up to quantum attacks.
Quantum computers are still extremely experimental today, and there’s no guarantee that a large quantum computer capable of that kind of attack will ever be built. However, they do exist and Google wants to be prepared for a possible threat in the future. “However, 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. Thus even the possibility of a future quantum computer is something that we should be thinking about today,” Braithwaite further explains.
‘New Hope’ has been developed by researchers Erdem Alkim, Léo Ducas, Thomas Pöppelmann and Peter Schwabe.