Race to the Infinities

November 30, 2018

Digital connectivity and information privacy touch every aspect of our lives. It is difficult to imagine societal progress without our ever-present digital devices and on-demand computing. Even though we expect and anticipate accelerating technological change, it is easy to miss important new developments, such as in the nascent field of quantum computing. Today an undeclared war is being waged over the optimal deployment of a qubit, the fundamental building block of a quantum computer. The eventual winner will achieve the ability to master and control the essence of data and privacy in every electronic device. At present we wait for a clear leading qubit implementation methodology to be established.

In anticipation of reliable and scalable quantum technologies, a pressing security issue has been simmering for a decade within a select group of computer scientists, quantum physicists, and security professionals: the potential for quantum computers to break existing cryptographic protocols and threaten the viability of global networks. The proliferation of sensitive data is already a target for future decryption.

Mainstream cryptographic ciphers typically take more than a decade to design and implement. The complexity of these ciphers must stand the test of time, both with the relentless increases in computational power and the improved mathematical and analytical capabilities of adversaries. The existing paradigm of ciphers based on mathematical complexity, ranging from the World War II Enigma cipher, the DES encryption of the 80s, and AES encryption of the 2000s, which were all expected to remain invulnerable for eons, is an increasingly precarious approach in a world moving to post-quantum standards.

Yet again we are facing an unending arms race, a "Race to the Infinities" where cryptographers strive toward infinite complexity and their counterparts seek infinitely faster computers. The proposed methods of quantum-resistant encryption are an extension based on the existing complexity model in an arms race where there may be no possibility of declaring an outright winner. The uncertainty of this approach (ie. using incremental increases in complexity alone) gives rise to an unenviable possibility: an end game where cryptanalysts are secretive and become an undeclared winner, able to decode any piece of information at will.

To develop quantum-invulnerable encryption, we must find another form of cryptography not dependent on complexity. Hence, we turn to the Vernam Cipher, an early form of encryption that is unbreakable. A one-time pad filled with a completely random sequence is a type of Vernam Cipher that cannot be decoded. However, the one-time pad has a significant drawback: it remains secure only if the pre-shared key is the same size as, or longer than, the message being sent, a prohibitive constraint on massive amounts of information routinely transferred across the internet.

The present consensus when designing new ciphers is to increase computational complexity while keeping the amount randomness fixed (in order to keep the cipher's key size manageable). Another approach when designing ciphers would be to allow the computational complexity and the amount of randomness to increase toward infinity. This paradigm shift leads to ciphers operating in a region ever closer to infinitely large one-time pads accessed with infinite computational complexity.

Over the last decade ZY4 has developed a set of novel techniques to overcome the vulnerabilities of classical encryption. This new class of encryption does not rely on computational complexity alone, uses true random numbers from a quantum random number generator, and operates in a region we call the "Shannon Event Horizon." Combining quantum mechanics and real-world computers using ZY4 techniques provides an opportunity for new computational models. The advent of a quantum internet era is signalled by a shift to practical protocols based on quantum mechanics, with promising applications including secure communication, clock synchronization, quantum sensor networks, and secure identification.