Submit-Quantum Cryptography with Python and Linux | by Christian Koch | Aug, 2023

A newbie’s information

Photograph by Jean-Louis Paulin on Unsplash

If we imagine Edward Snowden, encryption is “the one true safety towards surveillance” [1]. Nonetheless, advances in quantum expertise would possibly endanger this safeguard. Our article discusses why quantum computing poses a risk to information safety and what to do about it. As a substitute of a purely theoretical evaluation, we construct on code examples utilizing Python, C, and Linux.

When Google scientists reported the primary case of quantum supremacy in 2019, they precipitated nice pleasure. One space the place quantum computing may have important affect is encryption. To grasp this situation, we have to talk about some fundamentals.

In distinction to classical computer systems, algorithms for quantum computer systems don’t depend on bits, however on qubits. A bit can both take the state 0 or 1. After we measure a bit a number of occasions, we invariably get the identical end result. With qubits, issues are completely different. As unusual because it sounds, a qubit can take the worth 0 and 1 on the similar time. After we measure it repeatedly, there may be solely a sure likelihood for getting the end result 0 or 1. Within the preliminary state of a qubit, the likelihood for measuring 0 is usually a hundred percent. By superposition, nonetheless, completely different likelihood distributions might be generated. Causes lie in quantum mechanics, following different legal guidelines than “regular” life.

The principle benefit of quantum computer systems is their probabilistic nature. Classical computer systems excel at issues the place we reliably want a single end result. Quantum machines, however, are excellent at coping with possibilities and combinatorics. After we carry out an operation on a qubit in a superposed state, it’s concurrently utilized to each values 0 and 1. Because the variety of qubits will increase, so does the benefit over a classical pc. A quantum machine with three qubits can course of as much as eight values (2³) concurrently: particularly, the binary numbers 000, 001, 010, 011, 100, 101, 110, and 111.

Scientific literature agrees that quantum computer systems will assist fixing issues that beforehand appeared intractable. But there aren’t any optimum quantum machines accessible. The present era of quantum computer systems is known as noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ). Such machines have restricted processing energy and are delicate to errors. Trendy gadgets provide as much as a number of hundred qubits. One instance is the 433-qubit Osprey chip that IBM launched in 2022. Now, the corporate plans to develop a machine with 100,000 qubits by 2033.

Our article explains why this evolution poses a risk to information safety. Utilizing code examples, we present why quantum computer systems may break sure encryption and talk about workarounds. The supply code is offered on GitHub. It was developed underneath Kali Linux 2023.2 utilizing Anaconda with Python 3.10.

When encrypting a message, a comparatively easy approach is to use a symmetric algorithm. Such a technique makes use of the identical key for each the encryption of the plaintext and the decryption of the ciphertext. A serious problem with this method is the safe alternate of the important thing between sender and recipient. As soon as the non-public key turns into recognized to a 3rd occasion, they’ve the possibility to intercept and decrypt the message.

Asymmetric cryptography gave the impression to be the answer to this downside. Strategies like RSA use completely different keys for encryption and decryption. Encryption is carried out right here with a number of public keys that the recipient makes accessible to everybody. For decryption, the recipient makes use of a personal key, which is thought solely to them. This manner, the sender can acquire the general public key with out danger, since it isn’t secret anyway. Solely the recipient’s non-public key have to be protected. However how can such a process be hardened, when potential attackers know the general public key? To this finish, uneven algorithms depend on mathematical issues like prime factorization.

Prime factorization is greatest understood by instance. In Python, we are able to use the perform factorint of the library SymPy to find out the prime elements of a sure integer.

>>> import sympy
>>> sympy.factorint(10)
{2: 1, 5: 1}
>>> 2**1 * 5**1
>>> sympy.factorint(1000)
{2: 3, 5: 3}
>>> 2**3 * 5**3
>>> sympy.factorint(55557)
{3: 2, 6173: 1}
>>> 3**2 * 6173**1

The above console output illustrates that each pure quantity might be expressed as a product of prime numbers. These are referred to as prime elements. Considering again to high school days, a main quantity is divisible solely by 1 and itself. For instance, the quantity 10 might be expressed by the time period 10=2¹ * 5¹. Thus, the prime elements of 10 are 2 and 5. Analogously, the quantity 55557 might be expressed by the equation 55557=3² * 6173¹. So, the prime elements of 55557 equal 3 and 6173. The method of discovering prime elements for a given integer is named prime factorization.

With classical computer systems, prime factorization is straightforward for small numbers, however turns into more and more exhausting for giant integers. Every extra quantity drastically will increase the sum of doable mixtures. Past a sure level, it turns into just about not possible for a classical pc to find out prime elements. For instance, contemplate the next quantity (RSA-260) from the RSA Factoring Challenge, resulted in 2007. On the time of writing, it has not but been factorized.

#!/usr/bin/env python
import sympy

rsa_260 = 22112825529529666435281085255026230927612089502470015394413748319128822941402001986512729726569746599085900330031400051170742204560859276357953757185954298838958709229238491006703034124620545784566413664540684214361293017694020846391065875914794251435144458199

print("Begin factoring...")
elements = sympy.factorint(rsa_260)

# Will in all probability not be reached

Uneven algorithms like RSA make the most of the computational hardness of prime factorization and related issues to safe encryption. Sadly, the quantum world follows its personal legal guidelines.

Relating to cryptography, two quantum algorithms are of explicit concern. Shor’s algorithm gives an environment friendly approach of prime factorization. When carried out on a big quantum system, it might probably theoretically break uneven strategies like RSA. From a sensible perspective, this state of affairs lies sooner or later. A Nature article from 2023 mentions the variety of not less than 1,000,000 qubits required. {Hardware} apart, additionally it is tough to search out implementations of the algorithm that reliably scale on giant quantum machines. IBM’s framework Qiskit had tried to implement a perform, however deprecated it with model 0.22.0. Nonetheless, experimental implementations of Shor’s algorithm might be discovered on-line.

Grover’s algorithm poses a risk to symmetric encryption. Also referred to as quantum search algorithm, it affords a speed-up for unstructured search of the enter for a given perform. Quantum computer systems can use it to speed up brute-force assaults on symmetrically encrypted data. But, not like Shor’s algorithm, the supplied speedup is just not exponential. In easy phrases, because of this rising the size of the important thing used for encryption makes the search excessively costlier. For instance, performing a brute-force assault on a 128-bit key requires a most of 2¹²⁸ iterations. Assuming that Grover’s search reduces this quantity to 2⁶⁴, doubling the important thing size to 256 bits will increase it once more to 2¹²⁸ iterations. This opens the door to doable workarounds.

Underneath sure circumstances, symmetric encryption is a ready-to-use and easy approach to counter quantum algorithms. Motive is that Grover’s search doesn’t scale exponentially and Shor’s algorithm solely threatens uneven approaches. To better of present data, symmetric algorithms with a excessive diploma of hardness might be thought-about quantum-resistant. At current, each the American NIST in addition to the German BSI embrace AES-256 on this class [2][3]. The acronym AES stands for Superior Encryption Commonplace and the quantity 256 represents the bit size of the important thing. Underneath Linux, AES-256 is carried out by the GNU Privateness Guard (GnuPG). The next shell script reveals how a file might be encrypted after which decrypted once more utilizing AES-256.

# Encrypt
gpg --output encrypted.gpg --symmetric --cipher-algo AES256 plain.txt

# Decrypt
gpg --output decrypted.txt --decrypt encrypted.gpg

The above script encrypts the content material of the file “plain.txt”, writes the ciphertext to the doc “encrypted.gpg”, decrypts it once more and eventually saves the output to the file “decrypted.txt”. Earlier than encryption, GnuPG asks for a passphrase to generate the non-public key. For safety causes, it is important to decide on a powerful passphrase and preserve it secret. GnuPG would possibly cache the passphrase and never ask once more when decrypting. To clear the cache, the next shell command might be executed.

gpg-connect-agent reloadagent /bye

Integrating GnuPG into Python is comparatively easy with the subprocess module. A prototype implementation of the encryption with AES-256 is proven within the code fragment under.

#!/usr/bin/env python
import subprocess
import getpass

# Learn passphrase
passphrase = getpass.getpass("Passphrase:")
passphrase2 = getpass.getpass("Passphrase:")

if passphrase != passphrase2:
elevate ValueError("Passphrases not similar!")

# Carry out encryption

args = [
"--passphrase-fd", "0",
"--output", "encrypted.gpg",
"--cipher-algo", "AES256",

end result =
args, enter=passphrase.encode(),

if end result.returncode != 0:
elevate ValueError(end result.stderr)

For getting a passphrase, the above script makes use of the getpass module. After affirmation, the passphrase is transferred to GnuPG through normal enter. That is indicated by the argument passphrase-fd 0. Alternatively, passphrases might be despatched to GnuPG as a string or by file with command line arguments. Nonetheless, as these arguments are seen to different customers, each choices had been rejected for the prototype. One other, safer approach could be to make use of the GPG-Agent. Which choice to take will depend on the specified safety degree. A proof-of-concept together with encryption and decryption is supplied here. As a substitute for GnuPG, there are different AES-256 implementations. Selecting a reliable supply is significant right here.

Seeking an uneven answer, the NIST Submit-Quantum Cryptography Standardization program is an efficient start line. Since 2016, it has evaluated a number of candidates for quantum-resistant algorithms. One of many winners is Kyber. The system implements a so-called safe key encapsulation mechanism. Just like different algorithms, Kyber depends on a hard-to-solve downside to guard key alternate between two events. As a substitute of prime factorization, it’s primarily based on an issue referred to as “studying with errors”. What degree of safety Kyber affords, will depend on the important thing size. For instance, Kyber-1024 goals at a safety degree “roughly equal to AES-256” [4].

A reference implementation of Kyber, written in C, is offered on GitHub. Underneath Linux, we are able to clone and construct the framework by executing the shell instructions under. Some conditions are required for set up, that are documented within the undertaking’s README.

git clone
cd kyber/ref && make

There are a number of methods to combine the reference implementation into Python. Considered one of them is to put in writing a C program and name it. The C perform under makes use of Kyber to carry out a key alternate between two fictional events, Alice and Bob. For the total supply code, see here.

#embrace <stddef.h>
#embrace <stdio.h>
#embrace <string.h>
#embrace "kem.h"
#embrace "randombytes.h"

void round_trip(void) {
uint8_t key_a[CRYPTO_BYTES];
uint8_t key_b[CRYPTO_BYTES];

//Alice generates a public key
crypto_kem_keypair(pk, sk);
print_key("Alice' public key", pk);

//Bob derives a secret key and creates a response
crypto_kem_enc(ct, key_b, pk);
print_key("Bob's shared key", key_b);
print_key("Bob's response key", ct);

//Alice makes use of Bobs response to get her shared key
crypto_kem_dec(key_a, ct, sk);
print_key("Alice' shared key", key_a);

With out going into particulars, one can see that Kyber makes use of a number of private and non-private keys. Within the above instance, Alice generates a public key (pk) and a personal key (sk). Subsequent, Bob makes use of the general public key (pk) to derive a shared key (key_b) and a response key (ct). Latter is returned to Alice. Lastly, Alice makes use of the response key (ct) and her non-public key (sk) to generate an occasion of the shared key (key_a). So long as each events preserve their non-public and shared keys secret, the algorithm affords safety. When working this system, we acquire an output much like the textual content under.

Alice' public key: F0476B9B5867DD226588..
Bob's shared key: ADC41F30B665B1487A51..
Bob's response key: 9329C7951AF80028F42E..
Alice' shared key: ADC41F30B665B1487A51..

With a view to name the C perform in Python, we are able to use the subprocess module. Alternatively, it’s doable to construct a shared library and invoke it with the ctypes module. Second choice is carried out within the Python script under. After loading the shared library, generated from the Kyber C code, the process round_trip is named like some other Python perform.

#!/usr/bin/env python
import os
import ctypes

# Load shared library
libname = f"{os.getcwd()}/"
clib = ctypes.CDLL(libname, mode=1)
print("Shared lib loaded efficiently:")

# Name spherical journey perform
print("Executing spherical journey:")

Along with Kyber’s reference implementation, different suppliers have carried out the algorithm. Examples are the open-source initiatives Botan and Open Quantum Safe.

As our evaluation reveals, quantum expertise continues to be in its early levels. However we must always not underestimate the risk it poses to encryption and different cryptographic strategies corresponding to signatures. Disruptive innovation can enhance improvement at any time. Attackers can retailer messages now and decrypt later. Due to this fact, safety measures ought to be taken instantly. Particularly since there are workarounds accessible. When used correctly, symmetric algorithms like AES-256 are thought-about quantum-resistant. As well as, uneven options like Kyber are progressing. Which options to make use of will depend on the appliance. Following a Zero Belief mannequin, a mixture of approaches offers the most effective safety. This manner, the quantum risk may find yourself just like the Y2K downside — as a self-defeating prophecy.

Christian Koch is an Enterprise Architect at BWI GmbH and Lecturer on the Nuremberg Institute of Know-how Georg Simon Ohm.

Lucie Kogelheide is the Know-how Lead Submit-Quantum Cryptography at BWI GmbH and accountable for initiating the corporate’s migration course of to quantum protected cryptography.

Raphael Lorenz is the Founder and CISO of Lorenz Techniques and focuses on holistic safety options.

  1. Snowden, Edward: Everlasting File. Macmillan, 2019.
  2. Nationwide Institute of Requirements and Know-how: NIST Post-Quantum Cryptography: FAQS. 29 June 2023. Accessed: 02 August 2023.
  3. Federal Workplace for Info Safety (BSI): Quantum-safe cryptography — fundamentals, current developments and recommendations (PDF). October 2021. Accessed: 02 August 2023.
  4. CRYSTALS — Cryptographic Suite for Algebraic Lattices: Kyber Home. December 2020. Accessed: 02 August 2023.

Please notice that data safety is a important subject and that there is no such thing as a guarantee by the authors for the revealed content material.

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