PsiQuantum’s latest Quantum Computing research sheds light on ECC vulnerabilities

PALO ALTO, Calif., June 16, 2023 — PsiQuantum has announced in a new publication, an in-depth resource count for how much a quantum computer needs to impact a commonly used cryptosystem, namely Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) – considering a new flaw-tolerant quantum computing architecture that the company recently introduced.

This active volume architecture takes advantage of long-range connections within the quantum computer and results in a 700-fold reduction in computational resource requirements to crack ECC keys compared to state-of-the-art quantum algorithms. This is also orders of magnitude less computational time than the billions of years it would take for conventional computers to perform the equivalent task for a 256-bit ECC key.

Secure digital communications, which underpin our modern use of the Internet, build on the success of public key cryptographic systems. These cryptographic systems work by allowing a user to provide a public key, with which anyone can securely encrypt messages. These messages can then only be decrypted with a secret private key held by the user. These encryption and decryption keys consist of mathematical operations that are easy to apply (for encryption), but difficult to reverse (for decryption). The difficulty of decoding is based on the fact that reversing these mathematical operations is an impractical task for conventional computers.

Two important such schemes are RSA and Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC). In RSA, the mathematical operation used to provide the public and private keys centers on the ease of multiplying two prime numbers, versus the difficulty of the reverse process of retrieving these prime factors. ECC’s approach is a little more obscure, but the concept is similar. Encrypting the public key can be done using a mathematical operation known as multiplying the points of the elliptic curve, and reversing this process to decrypt messages is difficult without the information contained in a private key.

Both the RSA and ECC keys could easily be cracked using large-scale quantum computers. Quantum computer algorithms have been discovered that can, unlike conventional computers, efficiently reverse the mathematical operations underlying RSA and ECC. Several research papers have explored quantum algorithms for generating RSA and ECC keys over the past decades. Surprisingly, although it involves more mathematically complex operations, cracking 256-bit ECC keys is easier than cracking 2048-bit RSA keys, thanks to the shorter keys requiring less resource-intensive arithmetic operations.

In this paper, PsiQuantum discovered architecture-agnostic improvements to existing quantum ECC algorithms that reduce the number of ports required to crack ECC keys by up to 80%. The team also conducted a resource estimation for implementing quantum ECC algorithms using PsiQuantum’s recently unveiled active volume architecture technique, which resulted in a reduction of the number of quantum operations required to crack an ECC key down to 700 times.

The active volume compilation technique is particularly applicable to photonic architectures, such as that of PsiQuantums. This is because the technique is based on the ability to have long-range connections within the quantum computer and currently only photonic architectures have this feature. Unlike matter-based qubits such as ion traps or superconducting qubits, photons have the ability to be easily connected non-locally using conventional optical fiber, which is widely used in the telecommunications industry.

Despite these discoveries, cracking 256-bit ECC keys still requires quantum computers with millions of physical qubits. While photonic quantum computers can reduce the size of the required system, this still requires a much larger machine than we have today. However, researchers are actively preparing for such an eventuality with the development of post-quantum encryption schemes such as lattice cryptography and the recommendation to use longer RSA or ECC keys in the interim. These approaches are suspected to be secure against quantum algorithms, and furthermore other developing technologies may actually offer encryption schemes that are demonstrably secure against quantum algorithms.

The professor. Terry Rudolph, chief architect and co-founder of PsiQuantum, said: These results illustrate a characteristic property of the field of quantum computing, which is that while much progress is made through slow and painful incremental development, it is also not surprising to see huge leaps in forward by an order of magnitude or more. Because of this unpredictability, as well as the high potential impact of the technology, companies and organizations that are developing quantum computers have a serious responsibility to ensure that quantum computing is distributed responsibly and appropriately transparent. This is why we choose to publish our methods in the public domain.

VADM (retired) Robert D. Sharp, former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said: I applaud and am comforted by PsiQuantum’s relentless efforts to ensure that we maintain our competitive edge in mission-critical technologies such as quantum computing; one with such widespread applications and arguably some of the most profound national security implications the United States and our allies will face this century. In addition to being impressed with what the company is doing, I appreciate how thoughtful and strategic they are doing it, learning quickly and iteratively, and approaching the technology as a committed and transparent partner to US and allied governments as they achieve milestones critics.

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About PsiQuantum

Powered by breakthroughs in silicon photonics and fault-tolerant quantum architecture, PsiQuantum is building the first utility-scale quantum computer to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. PsiQuantum’s approach is based on single-photon qubits, which have significant advantages at the scale required to deliver a general-purpose and fault-tolerant quantum computer. With their photonic chips manufactured in a world-leading semiconductor factory, PsiQuantum is uniquely positioned to deliver quantum capabilities that reach the scale needed to drive advances in climate, pharmaceutical, healthcare, financial, energy, agricultural, transportation, communications and beyond. To learn more, visit

Source: PsiQuantum

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