The importance of cryptography in our everyday lives cannot be overstated. For every banking transaction we make, every email we send, every online purchase, cryptography plays an essential role in keeping our information secure. The same can be said for sensitive enterprise data up to the highest level of government state secrets.
Yet the cyberthreat landscape is evolving — with the advancement of mathematics, quantum computing, and the increasingly sophisticated nature of cyberattacks — making the need for more secure cryptography more urgent all the time.
Looking at the differences between traditional cryptography and quantum cryptography can offer key understanding of where we are and where we’ve come from, in order to prepare for where we’re headed.
Traditional Cryptography vs Quantum Cryptography
Traditional cryptography, the practice, science, and art of securing communications and information, has ancient roots. Julius Caesar devised an encryption stratagem around 50 B.C that was a mono-alphabetic substitution cipher, the efficacy of which depended on symmetric key tables employed by parties on either end.
Data has only ever been as secure as the keys used to encrypt it. Thousands of years ago, with enough patience, code-crackers could figure out a cipher’s structure.
In the modern, digital era, core cryptographic principles have remained — information is scrambled into cipher text using an encryption algorithm, and an authorized user must then use a decryption algorithm to access it — but since the 1970s, widespread use of computing has led to more focused research and developments in cryptography.
In the early 1970s, the Data Encryption Standard (DES) symmetric-key algorithm was designed by IBM personnel, becoming the first cryptography standard of the federal government in the United States. The DES was superseded by another symmetric-key algorithm, the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), in 2001.
A symmetric-key algorithm means the same, private cryptographic key is used for both data encryption and decryption. Benefits include efficiency and convenience, however, problems arise with symmetric cryptography when it comes to key exchange and key management — messages can be easily decrypted if the key is intercepted, and keeping track of many different keys as users increase can be challenging.
In order to solve these problems, the asymmetric encryption method was developed. In asymmetric cryptography, a publicly published key is used in conjunction with a different, private key kept secret. RSA is a public-key cryptosystem released in 1977 by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman, still widely in use today.
The RSA algorithm relies on the difficulty of factoring two large prime numbers, impossible for today’s computers, but easily done in a fraction of the time using Shor’s algorithm on the quantum computers soon to arrive.
In addition, asymmetric cryptography is slower, and without proper verification of the authenticity of the public key, security can be compromised without detection.
Quantum cryptography has developed in response to these shortcomings of traditional cryptography. In essence, it harnesses the principles of quantum mechanics for stronger data security, and to accurately detect whether a third party is eavesdropping as data is being shared.
Quantum cryptography was first developed in the late 1960s when research physicist Stephen J. Wiesner discovered important ideas on quantum information theory that led to quantum key distribution — the best known example of quantum cryptography in action.
Quantum key distribution (QKD) allows two parties to produce a shared random secret key for encrypting and decrypting messages. The superior security of QKD is possible through fundamental laws of physics and quantum mechanics — for example, the observer effect, which says that a quantum system is altered by merely observing it, and the no-cloning theorem, which says that a quantum system cannot be directly copied without disturbing the system — making eavesdroppers easily detectible.
The algorithm most commonly associated with quantum key distribution is the One Time Pad. The One Time Pad is the gold standard in cryptography, and the only known unbreakable cipher — even against the infinite power of a quantum computer.
OTP has been thought to be impractical for wide-scale adoption due to factors such as its unwieldy key size in a symmetric private-key system, but methodologies that solve for key transmission and key management issues are arriving on the cryptography scene to make the One Time Pad a feasible option for the enterprise in the modern era.
In sum, whereas traditional cryptography is based on mathematics that rely on the extreme difficulty for a classic computer to factor a large number, quantum cryptography is based on physics and relies on the invariability of the laws of quantum mechanics.
With the development of quantum computing, traditional cryptography is doomed to become all too easily breakable. Quantum cryptography, without traditional cryptography’s vulnerabilities to advancing mathematics and computing technology, provides the basis for a true revolution in cryptography.
A Transformation in Data Security
Securing the future of our data requires a change in our traditional approach to cryptography.
Theon Technology is a pioneer leading the paradigm shift on the road to perfect secrecy. Our patented methodologies help protect against the impending quantum compute threats with a focus on data sovereignty, data security, and data compression.
Theon’s Random Number Generator, Archimedes, is the foundation of true security, generating higher entropy random numbers, and providing the required element necessary for quantum-resistant One Time Pad encryption.
Theon’s Hypatia finally enables OTP encryption for both data at-rest and in-flight at enterprise scale, providing an innovative way to reduce the OTP key storage and transmission overhead.
And our software approach drives flexibility across deployment models for a wide range of solutions in almost every industry and use case.
With Theon, a game-changing software solution has arrived — setting new standards for the future of cryptography, while helping businesses implement commercially viable, quantum-resistant encryption for the very best in data security both today and tomorrow.
It’s time for a paradigm shift in data encryption — Reach out to a Theon expert today to take the first step on the road to perfect secrecy for your organization. We also have free eBooks available for download, including Cryptography’s End, which preps you with an understanding of the end of cryptography as we know it and why quantum-proof encryption is so critical to the future of cybersecurity.