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First Internet Standard for Post-Quantum Signatures

Press | 14.06.2018

TU Darmstadt and genua Set a New Standard for Internet Security

Kirchheim near Munich, 14th Juni 2018. A game change has taken place in the race between computing power and encryption technologies. The quantum-resistant signature procedure that has been developed by a research team from the Technical University (TU) Darmstadt and the German IT security specialist genua GmbH, has now been published as an Internet standard (RFC 8391). This makes it the first universally recognized and deployable procedure for digital signatures that will withstand the calculating power of quantum computers. Digital signatures are used to guarantee the genuineness of e-mail, SSL certificates and software updates – and provide the basis of trust for communication throughout the Internet. The publication of this signature procedure as an Internet standard is a milestone in so-called post-quantum cryptography. genua is already using the procedure to guarantee the authenticity of software updates.

With their powerful calculating capacity, quantum computers can quickly solve extremely complex problems such as climate modeling and calculating chemical processes in pharmaceutical and material research – or calculating the keys to today’s widely used public key cryptographic procedures. Confidential communication over the Internet and the security of private data are both based on these procedures. At the moment, quantum computers are still largely theoretical and not yet ready for use. However, the enormous potential of these new computers makes their development interesting. According to Edward Snowden, in addition to IT companies, the NSA is also investing considerable resources in quantum computers and it is highly probable that the first computer of this type will appear in the near future. It is important that cryptography reacts early to this foreseeable quantum leap in computing power as the development and dissemination of new encryption procedures takes time.

From Hash Functions to Post-Quantum Signatures

A research team from the Technical University Darmstadt and the IT security specialist genua under the leadership of the experienced cryptographic expert Professor Johannes Buchmann has developed a practical signature procedure within the last three years that cannot be cracked by quantum computers. The key to the solution is a hash-based procedure: in principle, hashes only work in one direction – once information has been coded with a hash it can never be decoded back to plain text. The properties of cryptographically secure hash functions make them resistant to quantum computer attack. This project was sponsored by the Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) and the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs.

RFC Sets Universal Internet Standards

In order to spread the post-quantum signature procedure world-wide, the research team submitted a proposal for an Internet Standard (RFC) in cooperation with experts from the Technical University of Eindhoven. This proposal has now been approved by the international IRTF (Internet Research Task Force) and published as RFC 8391. This means that the procedure is now internationally recognized and can be universally applied for the generation of signatures that are quantum computer resistant. "RFC 8391 is the first post-quantum signature standard to have been published. This means that the TU Darmstadt and genua research team have solved a post-quantum cryptographic problem which a number of large companies and organizations have been working on and made an important contribution to future Internet security", said Matthias Ochs, one of the Managing Directors of the genua GmbH.

From Research to Everyday Use

genua is already using the quantum-computer resistant signature procedure to guarantee to customers – at the highest possible level of security – that software updates are genuine. In addition, the company has started a new research project with the aim of solving a further post-quantum cryptographic problem related to the coming leap in computing power: securing encrypted data transfer over public networks such as the Internet via VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).

Cyber-Security Research at the Technical University of Darmstadt

Cyber-security is one of six main fields of research at the TU Darmstadt, one of the leading German technical universities. More than 200 researchers work in the Cybersecurity (CYSEC) profile area on key subjects in cyber security and privacy protection. More than 30 research groups from eight departments at the TU Darmstadt are involved in CYSEC – Computer Science, Physics, Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, History and Social Sciences, Biology, Human Sciences, Mechanical Engineering, Law and Economics. CYSEC’s core competencies are internationally recognized state-of-the-art research in numerous areas of cyber security and the training of experts in the IT Security masters program. Technology transfer through national and international cooperation with non-academic research institutions and industrial partners complete CYSEC’s profile.

About genua

genua GmbH is a German IT security specialist. Its business activities range from securing sensitive interfaces in public authorities and industry to connecting highly critical infrastructure, reliably encrypting data communication over the Internet and providing remote maintenance systems for industry and remote access solutions for mobile users and home offices. All genua products are developed and produced in Germany. Product quality is ensured by regular certification and approval by the German Federal Office for Information Security (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik). genua was founded in 1992 and now has over 250 employees at its main site in Kirchheim near Munich and subsidiaries in Berlin, Cologne, Leipzig and Stuttgart. Over the years, numerous customers from industry and government have come to rely on the experience and solutions provided by the company. genua is part of the Bundesdruckerei group.

Further information:

genua GmbH
Dietmar Bruhns
Domagkstrasse 7
85551 Kirchheim, Germany
tel +49 89 991950-169

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