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Communications of the ACM


Where Is the Research on Cryptographic Transition and Agility?

shield-like structure with image of a key at its center, illustration

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates, Shutterstock

As quantum computing technology continues to advance, the industry is faced with the challenge of migrating to new, quantum-safe public key cryptography standards. Based on algorithms known collectively as post-quantum cryptography, these standards are actively under development by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in collaboration with the broader cryptography research community.4

This is not the first time a transition to new cryptography has been needed. Algorithmic vulnerabilities, more powerful hardware platforms, more efficient algorithms, amongst other reasons, have motivated prior transitions in cryptographic hash algorithms (MD5 to SHA1, SHA1 to SHA2), symmetric key algorithms (RC4 to DES to AES), and public key algorithms (RSA-1024 to -2048, RSA to ECC). In fact, cryptographic transitions include not only algorithms, but protocols applying those algorithms (SSL/TLS, KMIP, IKE) and the actual implementations (OpenSSL, Bouncy Castle) that are the workhorse for deployed solutions.


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