Quantum Computers Pose Threat to Email Safety, But Solution Is on the Way

News and Analysis

With the potential to perform more advanced calculations and create more complex processing networks, quantum computers also pose new risks of compromising the most sophisticated cybersecurity systems.

To address this issue, the team behind end-to-end encrypted email software Tutanota and the Leibniz University of Hannover have jointly begun a dedicated research project. The parties claim to develop a quantum computer resistant cryptography to protect Tutanota email application users against potential decryption of all currently encrypted emails. Tutanota explained to forklog.media:

“Quantum computers do […] pose a serious threat to cryptography as the asymmetric cryptosystems that are widely used today (RSA, (EC)DSA and (EC)DH), rely on variants of only two hard mathematical problems that, unfortunately, quantum computers are able to solve significantly faster: the integer factorization problem and the discrete logarithm problem.”

Make It Before It’s Too Late

The researchers suggest it will take 10 to 15 years for quantum computers to become capable of performing attacks on users’ computer systems. If so, bad actors will be able to get access to confidential communication of mainstream users and conduct corporate espionage and malicious attacks as, per Tutanota, there are very few apps that use quantum-safe encryption and there is no implementation for emails yet.

“The particular challenge of the project is that the encryption algorithms must be secure but also perform well. Encryption must be performant in the browser, in desktop clients as well as on mobile devices via Android and iOS App, so that even older devices with low memory and computing power can perform the encryption and decryption,” the company noted in the blog post.

Tutanota told forklog.media that it does not expect major email service providers to introduce quantum-safe encryption, further adding:

“Google once launched a project to add end-to-end encryption to Gmail, but discontinued it in 2017. There is no interest from big corporations to encrypt users’ data because it would destroy their business model of creating user profiles and posting targeted advertisements.”

Dramatic Changes Brought by Quantum Computers

Tutanota went on saying that quantum computers will increase the computation power to an extent we are not really capable of imagining yet. This will ostensibly bring dramatic changes, particularly in fields like Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.

This issue apparently raises serious concerns as developers and scientists around the world have become involved in the development of quantum-resistant solutions. Thus, physicists at the Russian Quantum Center (RQC) created and tested what they call the world’s first quantum blockchain, an unhackable system for distributed data storage.

According to Alexei Fyodorov of the RQC, unlimited computational capacity of quantum computers theoretically may empower attackers to counterfeit electronic signatures in blockchain transactions, and thus alter it or interfere with other users’ interaction.

In 2019, Jesse Lund, vice president of blockchain and digital currencies at IBM, also warned about the likelihood of a quantum computer-related threat to both cryptocurrencies and the cryptography methods involved.

Written by Ana Alexandre

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