In 2016, the US National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) began a multi-year standardisation project to identify candidate quantum-resistant cryptosystems, calling for submissions due November 2017. This is to be followed by a three- to five-year public review, and then a one- to two-year standardisation phase – leading to a suite of NIST standards between 2021 and 2024.
NIST standards tend to drive or influence information technology systems and standards around the world. The announcement of NIST standards for post-quantum cryptography can therefore be expected to result in a large-scale retooling of the ICT infrastructure supported in their efforts to participate centrally at every stage of the NIST process.
Accepting the NIST process as the key external organising factor, Quantum-Safe Canada anticipates the following timeline for our initiative:
- Phase 1, 2017-2020 (Reinforcing the foundations)
- Phase 2, 2020-2022 (Preparing for wide-scale deployment)
- Phase 3, 2022-2025 (Driving deployment)
In the eight-year period between 2017 and 2025, Quantum-Safe Canada proposes to coordinate and undertake activities in the areas discussed below.
Targeted R&D to Deliver Practical Quantum-Safe Solutions
We are at the stage where government involvement is key to ensuring an effective response to the quantum threat. The quantum-threat is an urgent problem than needs attention today – not some day in the future after we have dealt with what society wrongly sees as more important “real-world” matters like cloud computing, supply chain risks, AI, etc.
As a growing list of organizations are aiming to achieve quantum-readiness over the next decade, even organizations aiming for as late as 2028 or 2030 will need the solutions to the targeted problems we are talking about. An infusion of financial support for R&D infrastructure and personnel is called for, including additional professors, researchers and R&D and commercialisation activities related to post-quantum cryptography and quantum cryptography (including QKD).
Additional Hardware / Equipment to Support Research
Aspects of research into quantum-resistant cryptography, QKD in particular (e.g., integrated or chip-scale QKD devices, or ground-network-compatible devices), call for substantial expenditures on equipment such as satellites, ground stations and networking testbeds.
Commercialisation of Research
Quantum-Safe Canada will work with stakeholders and others to identify opportunities to commercialise research into quantum-safe products – equipment, software and skills.
Export-development programs will be developed and introduced, scaled to suit the opportunities that exist for Canada to export quantum-safe technology, expertise and training to other countries.
Education and Training Programs
Developing the necessary cadre of cybersecurity experts with strong quantum-safe skills will call for training and retraining programs. We must quantify the need, develop the curriculum and the deliver the programs across the country – and then repackage them for export around the world.
Evaluation, Planning and Administration
A significant amount of ongoing evaluation, planning and awareness-building will be required throughout the lifespan of the initiative.