Migration to Post-Quantum Cryptography

The advent of quantum computing technology will compromise many of the current cryptographic algorithms, especially public-key cryptography, which is widely used to protect digital information. Most algorithms on which we depend are used worldwide in components of many different communications, processing, and storage systems. Once access to practical quantum computers becomes available, all public-key algorithms and associated protocols will be vulnerable to criminals, competitors, and other adversaries. It is critical to begin planning for the replacement of hardware, software, and services that use public-key algorithms now so that information is protected from future attacks.


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Initiating the development of practices to ease migration from the current set of public-key cryptographic algorithms to replacement algorithms that are resistant to quantum computer-based attacks

These practices will take the form of white papers, playbooks, and demonstrable implementations for organizations. In particular, the audience for these practices is intended to include organizations that provide cryptographic standards and protocols and enterprises that develop, acquire, implement, and service cryptographic products. This effort complements NIST's postquantum cryptography standardization activities.
Status: Reviewing Comments

The public comment period has closed for this publication. We are currently reviewing the comments received. Thank you to everyone who shared their feedback with us.

NIST is adopting an agile process to publish this content. Each volume is being made available as soon as possible rather than delaying release until all volumes are completed. Work continues on implementing the example solution and developing other parts of the content. As a preliminary draft, we will publish at least one additional draft for public comment before it is finalized.

NIST SP 1800-38A: Executive Summary (Preliminary Draft)Document Version NIST SP 1800-38A: Executive Summary (Preliminary Draft)
NIST SP 1800-38B: Approach, Architecture, and Security Characteristics of Public Key Application Discovery Tools (Preliminary Draft)Document Version NIST SP 1800-38B: Approach, Architecture, and Security Characteristics of Public Key Application Discovery Tools (Preliminary Draft)
NIST SP 1800-38C: Quantum-Resistant Cryptography Technology Interoperability and Performance Report (Preliminary Draft)Document Version NIST SP 1800-38C: Quantum-Resistant Cryptography Technology Interoperability and Performance Report (Preliminary Draft)

Project Abstract

The initial scope of this project is to demonstrate the discovery tools that can provide automated assistance in identifying where and how public-key cryptography is being used in hardware, firmware, operating systems, communication protocols, cryptographic libraries, and applications employed in data centers whether on-premise or in the cloud and distributed computer, storage, and network infrastructures. The audience for the project includes developers of products that use public-key cryptographic algorithms, as well as product integrators, customer organizations that acquire or configure these products, and bodies that standardize protocols that employ or are dependent on public-key cryptographic algorithms.

The recommended project will engage industry in demonstrating use of automated discovery tools to identify all instances of public-key algorithm use in an example network infrastructure’s computer and communications hardware, operating systems, application programs, communications protocols, key infrastructures, and access control mechanisms. The algorithm employed and its purpose would be identified for each affected infrastructure component.

Once the public-key cryptography components and associated assets in the enterprise are identified, the next element of the scope of the project is to prioritize those components that need to be considered first in the migration using a risk management methodology informed by “Mosca’s Theorem” and other recommended practices.

Finally, the project will provide systematic approaches for migrating from vulnerable algorithms to quantum-resistant algorithms across the different types of assets and their supporting underlying technology.

It is critical to begin planning for replacement of hardware, software, and services that use public-key algorithms now so that the information is protected from future attacks.

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Quantum-readiness: Migration to Post-quantum Cryptography

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) created this factsheet to inform organizations — especially those that support Critical Infrastructure — about the impacts of quantum capabilities, and to encourage the early planning for migration to post-quantum cryptographic standards.

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Supplemental Resources

White Paper: Getting Ready for Post-Quantum Cryptography: Exploring Challenges Associated with Adopting and Using Post-Quantum Cryptographic Algorithms. Describing the impact of quantum computing technology on classical cryptography, introducing the adoption challenges associated with post-quantum cryptography, and planning requirements for migration to post-quantum cryptography are discussed.

Virtual Workshop on Considerations in Migrating to Post-Quantum Cryptographic Algorithms. Recording and materials now available. 

NIST has initiated a process to solicit, evaluate, and standardize one or more quantum-resistant public-key cryptographic algorithms. Learn more about the effort here: https://csrc.nist.gov/Projects/post-quantum-cryptography.

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Consortium Participants

Organizations participating in this project submitted their capabilities in response to an open call in the Federal Register for all sources of relevant security capabilities from academia and industry (vendors and integrators). The following respondents with relevant capabilities or product components (identified as “Technology Partners/Collaborators” herein) signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to collaborate with NIST in a consortium to build this example solution.

Post-Quantum Cryptography: the Good, the Bad, and the Powerful

This video featuring NIST’s Matthew Scholl emphasizes how NIST is working with the brightest minds in government, academia, and industry from around the world to develop a new set of encryption standards that will work with our current classical computers—while being resistant to the quantum machines of the future.

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A Community of Interest (COI) is a group of professionals and advisors who share business insights, technical expertise, challenges, and perspectives to guide NCCoE projects. COIs often include experts, innovators, and everyday users of cybersecurity and privacy technologies. Share your expertise and consider becoming a member of this project's COI. 

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