RSA’s demise from quantum attacks is very much exaggerated, expert says

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Three weeks ago, panic struck some corners of the security world after researchers discovered a breach that could, ultimately, break the widely used RSA encryption scheme through using quantum computing.

For twenty years scientists and researchers have known that a factorial method called Shor’s algorithm can allow a computer of sufficient size to break RSA. This is because it is easy to calculate the secret prime numbers that support the security of an RSA key using Shor’s algorithm. It took billions of years to compare the same bridges using classical computers.

The only thing that keeps this feature from being tricky is the amount of computing resources required for Shor’s algorithm to crack RSA keys of the right size. The current estimate is to crack a 1,024-bit or 2,048-bit RSA key with a quantum computer and many resources. Basically, those resources are about 20 million qubits and eight hours running on a stand. (A qubit is a basic unit of quantum computing, similar to a binary bit in classical computing. But since a classical binary bit can represent only one binary value such as 0 or 1, the qubit is represented by the position of a possible number. approx.)

The paper, published three weeks ago by a group of researchers in China, claimed to have found a method that could crack the 2,048-bit RSA key using a quantum system with just 372 qubits. while working using thousands of functional units. The discovery, if true, could lead to the evolution of RSA encryption into quantum computing much faster than most people believed.

The risk of RSA is very high

At the Enigma 2023 Conference in Santa Clara, California, on Tuesday, computer scientist and security and privacy expert Simson Garfinkel told researchers that the vulnerability of RSA has been greatly exaggerated. For now, he says, quantum computing has few, if any, practical applications.

“In the near future, quantum computers are good for one thing, which is publishing papers in prestigious journals,” said Garfinkel, co-author with Chris Hoofnagle of the book 2021 Rules and policies for senior year, told the audience. “The second thing is that they really like it, but we don’t know for how long, it’s really good to get funding.”

Although the computer will be very advanced in providing practical applications, the applications can simulate physics and chemistry, and perform computational optimizations that cannot be done with classical computers. Garfinkel said the lack of practical applications in the future could lead to a “big winter,” similar to the many rounds of artificial intelligence winters that preceded the AI ​​era.

The problem with the paper published earlier this month is its reliance on Shnorr’s algorithm (not to be confused with Shor’s algorithm), developed in 1994. Schnorr’s algorithm is a classical algorithm based on networks, a mathematical concept of lines that form a geometric structure that can encode and decode messages. The authors who proposed Schnorr’s algorithm suggested that it can enhance the use of a heuristic quantity optimization method called QAOA.

In short order, several researchers pointed out the serious flaws in Shnorr’s algorithm that were completely eliminated. In particular, the critics said there was no evidence to support the authors’ claims about Schnorr’s algorithm achieving polynomial time, as opposed to the linear time achieved with classical algorithms.

A research paper from three weeks ago seems to take Shor’s algorithm at face value. Although it is expected to be enhanced using QAOA—something that currently has no support—it is questionable whether combining it with Shor’s algorithm will provide more performance.

“All told, this is one of the most misleading computer papers I’ve seen in 25 years, and I’ve seen … a lot,” said Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the University of Texas at Austin. and director of his Quantum Information Center, wrote. “That being said, this is not the first time that I have encountered the opposite opinion that the rate of exponential growth for exponential integers, as we know from Shor’s algorithm, should be ‘removed’ to quantum optimization heuristics that don’t hold. of the real insights of Shor’s algorithm, as if by love magic.”

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