PQCRYPTO at NIST workshop to present 22 proposals for long-term security

The European project PQCRYPTO, lead by Full Professor Tanja Lange, is at a major international conference in Fort Lauderdale this week presenting 22 proposals for new cryptographic standards to an audience of 350 participants from all over the world. The conference is the First Post-Quantum Cryptography Standardization Conference organized by the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency that creates cryptographic standards that are used worldwide.

NIST has a track record of developing cryptographic standards by means of public competitions to which researchers submit their best designs.
The institute is now running a competition for post-quantum cryptography. This initiative is taken because previous standards for "public-key" cryptography will be broken by large quantum computers.

Withstand the power of quantum computers
Over the last three years, PQCRYPTO researchers have worked to design new systems that can withstand the power of a quantum computer, to analyze the exact security of these systems, and to improve their performance. As a result they submitted 22 designs to NIST's new competition. These 22 schemes make up more than one third of the submissions to NIST that will be presented starting Wednesday.

"The designs cater for different application scenarios and security preferences," says Tanja Lange, coordinator of the PQCRYPTO project and Full Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science of the Eindhoven University of Technology. "The PQCRYPTO submissions range from extremely well-studied, high-confidence designs to more recent inventions that present benefits in efficiency."

NIST has scheduled 3-5 years for analysis of the submissions. However, NIST does not have the resources to analyze the submissions itself; it relies on externally funded analyses of security and applicability.

The PQCRYPTO work has already paid off: 12 other submissions have already been found to have devastating attacks and for 6 more systems analysis has shown that some of the promised properties do not hold. None of these affected systems are from the PQCRYPTO team – while 11 of these 18 attacks were discovered by PQCRYPTO researchers.

With this outcome, PQCRYPTO ends on a high note. "It was fascinating to work with Europe's brightest minds in developing the cryptography of the future," Lange says.