A consortium including TNO, CWI (Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica) and TU Delft has received a 1.8 million grant from NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) to conduct research in the quantum security of public key infrastructures (PKI).
The research proposal, called HAPKIDO (Hybrid Approach for quantum-safe Public Key Infrastructure Development for Organizations), was submitted in response to a call from the Dutch National Science Agenda (NWA). In addition to the aforementioned parties, the consortium also includes KPN, Microsoft, the digital government department Logius and the software company Zynyo. Furthermore, the participating parties are supported by various private and public organizations.
A public key infrastructure PKI is a cryptographic system that can be used to issue and manage digital certificates, which form the basis for secure digital connections and the protection of digital information. However, many commonly used cryptographic algorithms are at risk of becoming insecure due to advances in quantum computing. Without preparation, sensitive data protected by encryption will potentially become accessible to non-eligible parties and the communication infrastructure will be disrupted, affecting countless organizations and millions of people. “We are very pleased that NWO has approved our proposal. The development of quantum computing is moving fast and this offers opportunities but also threats that we must be prepared for. Quantum-safe trust services, including the underlying Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), are necessary to protect digital societies against these significant risks, ”said Maran van Heesch, Program Manager Cyber Security & Robustness at TNO.
Realising a transition to a quantum-safe infrastructure
The HAPKIDO research focuses in particular on how a transition to a quantum-safe public key infrastructure can be realized. As part of this, the consortium is looking at underlying technical aspects such as designing a hybrid PKI that takes interoperability between different systems, backward compatibility and migration architectures into account. At the same time, the consortium is investigating which growth models are possible in order to be able to transition from the current to future situation, and how the management (IT governance) of digital infrastructures should change in order to guarantee quantum security. The social risks of a quantum insecure PKI in the quantum era are also taken into account.
Serge Fehr, researcher at CWI’s Cryptology group and professor at Leiden University, says that CWI will establish the theoretical foundations for the project. He explains: “We will analyze the considered quantum-safe techniques and develop new mathematical methods in order to argue their quantum security by rigorous means”.
Serge Fehr (CWI and UL), leader of the HAPKIDO work package “Cryptographic Tools”.
‘National Science Agenda’ Cyber Security Agenda
The proposal by TNO, CWI and TU Delft is one of five proposals that are awarded funding, out of a total of 19 that were submitted. A total budget of €9,610,000 has been made available for the proposals that have been accepted. These proposals were submitted in response to the call from the National Science Agenda (NWA) to find ways for secure and trusted data sharing, now and in the future. The HAPKIDO proposal is supported by 11 organizations, including several ministries and other government institutions, ING and ABN AMRO.
Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) is the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands. CWI is part of NWO-I, the Institutes Organisation of NWO.
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