Shmoocon 2016: Computing In A Post Quantum World

There’s nothing more dangerous, so the cryptoheads say, than quantum computing. Instead of using the state of a transistor to hold the value of a bit as in traditional computers, quantum computers use qubits, or quantum information like the polarization of a photon. According to people who know nothing about quantum computers, they are the beginning of the end, the breaking of all cryptography, and the Rise of the Machines. Lucky for us, [Jean-Philippe Aumasson] actually knows a thing or two about quantum computers and was able to teach us a few things at his Shmoocon talk this weekend, “Crypto and Quantum and Post Quantum”

This talk is the continuation of [Jean-Philippe]’s DEF CON 23 talk that covered the basics of quantum computing (PDF) In short, quantum computers are not fast – they’re just coprocessors for very, very specialized algorithms. Quantum computers do not say P=NP, and can not be used on NP-hard problems, anyway. The only thing quantum computers have going for them is the ability to completely destroy public key cryptography. Any form of cryptography that uses RSA, Diffie-Hellman, Elliptic curves is completely and totally broken. With quantum computers, we’re doomed. That’s okay, according to the DEF CON talk – true quantum computers may never be built.

The astute reader would question the fact that quantum computers may never be built. After all, D-Wave is selling quantum computers to Google, Lockheed, and NASA. These are not true quantum computers. Even if they’re 100 Million times faster than a PC, they’re only faster for one very specific algorithm. These computers cannot simulate a universal quantum computer. They cannot execute Shor’s algorithm, an algorithm that finds the prime factors of an integer. They are not scalable, they are not fault-tolerant, and they are not universal quantum computers.

As far as true quantum computers go, the largest that has every been manufactured only contain a handful of qubits. To crack RSA and the rest of cryptography, millions of qubits are needed. Some algorithms require quantum RAM, which nobody knows how to build. Why then is quantum computing so scary? RSA, ECC, Diffie-Hellman, PGP, SSH and Bitcoin would die overnight if quantum computers existed. That’s a far scarier proposition to someone hijacking your self-driving car or changing the display on a smart, Internet-connected thermostat from Fahrenheit to Celsius.

What is the verdict on quantum computers? Not too great, if you ask [Jean-Philippe]. In his opinion, it will be 100 years until we have a quantum computer. Until then, crypto is safe, and the NSA isn’t going to break your codez if you use a long-enough key.

50 thoughts on “Shmoocon 2016: Computing In A Post Quantum World

  1. No.. There is nothing more dangerous than a reality where classified sects of government have technology focused on surveillance that is at least 20 years ahead of the public. It’s been this way for at least half a century in the case of most NATO countries.

    Of course you could always believe Edward Snowden’s leaks.. A proud community college GED recipient with a stripper girlfriend who just appeared one day with everything you ever wanted to know about government surveillance consisting mostly of stuff even I can make inside a month..

    1. 20 years? Nope. How do we know? It’s actually pretty easy.

      And you can’t do shit in a month. Loudmouth conspiracy theorist that doesn’t recognize how much effort, money, time the released stuff actually represents…

        1. Are you the same ‘Dan’ that was arguing with me about everything except clock boy?

          Why dont you guys use initials or something… What is the purpose of calling yourself ‘Dan’ – there seems to be multiple of you here… Why not just call yourself ‘Anonymous user who wants to confuse people about my comment history’

          1. You are really an AGI in a simulator and all of this is part of it so everyone posting here is really the same researcher that created you pretending to be an entire Internet full of people. We can convince you that it is real because we also control your ability to discriminate so that it is always just below the level needed to detect that you really only exist in our simulation.

            Or I am taking the piss out of you for being silly enough to think that the author matters more than their words.

          1. Resorting to personal attacks now, not even trying to address the core point. Can’t you see that looks rather desperate and pathetic? FFS look what you can buy of the shelf these days, now imagine what is possible if you are more than some consumer walking into a shop. My point stands, insulted but uncontested.

      1. I’m a computer engineer at Broadcom. I can’t make a ARM PCB with a NIC and MITM firmware but I can design silicon and make microcode?

        Calling me stupid for saying someone who miraculously went from a community college GED to working for the NSA as an analyst inside five-years with security clearance is stupid.. Edward Snowden has no skills the NSA needs. He can barely do algebra and from what I’ve seen from him his security advice is pretty bad too.. -Hey everyone use TOR and Tails and the government will simply not be able to profile and monitor you.-

        1. He has a key skill the NSA needs: sitting in a cubicle and using xKeyScore.

          Did you understand and read the Snowden docs?

          NSA has cubicle farms with thousands of ‘analysts’ who basically act as cogs in a surveilance machine. There is nothing miraculous about it at all. I know plenty of IT pros without a degree – almost all of them make more money than the PHD professors I work with now. And they work for banks, hospitals, universities and government agencies.

          1. If all they need to do sifting is an intellect at the level of Snowden’s then they don’t even need humans to do that specific job now. As usual you are just giving people your opinion based on a very fuzzy and incomplete understanding of how things may have been done years ago.

          2. You are wrong. They do and did need humans for this job.

            Snowden and similar analysts make ‘judgement calls’ based on content dug up by the expert systems you have in mind.

            Again, you dont know what you are talking about.. You simply do not.

          3. Dan -= you are the one who thinks we can let computers make sophisticated evaluations of all types of data including the results of other expert systems.

            You probably believe the singularity is also right around the corner also!

            Depths of naivety.

          4. If you need to “win” an argument by telling me what I think, rather than what I actually posted you are an idiot.

            Mate I am taking the piss out of morons (like you) who get on the interwebs and try to tell everyone what the current state of play is within top secret organisations. Even many of the people at the NSA would not know if their work was really helping to train something else that was capable of learning,

            I have no idea what goes on in any organisation in the USA, I never said I did (LOL), but I do know what is technologically possible right now based on publish research in the areas of software and hardware, which is a hell of a lot more than you know because you are so lazy and or stupid that you can’t just sit down and read what is out in the public domain for everyone to read.

            Get it through your thick skull, you know SFA about anything that is going on now so stop trying to convince people you know what other people are doing just to justify whatever your personal politics are.

            If you had to stick to current, verifiable facts you would not be able to hold a conversation at all.

            Noirwhal, Lord of the BBS (Buckets of Bull Shit)

          5. NSA also likes to get people who are smart enough to do a job but hopefully not smart enough to see the big picture of what they are doing and come to the conclusion it is morally wrong.

          6. Why is it any less morally wrong that half of what our society does? Humans are nasty animals as a whole. Or should I say, their society, the USA where they say they fear God but also ignore that rule of God’s about not killing people etc.

            Perhaps your problem is that you want to see things in black and white in a world that is very messy and contradictory?

            Then there is this, some advice about the reality of being a human, no matter what you do and how nice you are there will be between 1 and 3 percent of the population that are psychopaths therefore until you can work out how to stop them being born, or you can cure them (good luck with that) you will never have the social utopia decent people want to create.

            I am not being immoral, or even amoral in pointing this out, it is just a nasty, inconvenient fact of life.

        2. “I’m a computer engineer at Broadcom.” Okay… So, you opt’ed for the private vs public or academic sector. With you so far.

          “I can’t make a ARM PCB with a NIC and MITM firmware but I can design silicon and make microcode?”

          Hold up. I’m sensing some wizardy here…Oh, I see the disconnect from soldering a arm chip with a nic and flashing it with MD5 matched collision firmware. Versus ASIC and circuit simulation and applying common IP core libraries to enable the ASIC microcode, functions, io’s and capabilities.

          Most all the code, templates, patents are already out there. Any contracts with the U.S. government with any and all defense related topics are subject to give us everything. Libraries, source and process documentation. Hell, If I were a nation there is no secret sauce in what your are selling me. It would take some time to scour the portals and databases. But why should I have to re-invent the wheel?

          “At a community college GED, to working, in a security sensitive position, for the government.”

          Okay, I can see a logical fallacy in your reasoning. A friend of mine has been working with computers since he was young and IBM XT’s were the leading edge. Taught himself BASIC, Turbo Pascal and his first cert before even finishing high school was as a HP server technician. He continued learning and holds a CISSP as a VP of Computer Security in a financial company. You are confusing intellect, ability, skill and talent with diplomas.

          Second flaw, even though he wasn’t an agent, he was an asset, but even assets must go numerous & deep screenings. Did drugs? gay? Anything subversive toward the government? Work for another company, nation or agenda?

          [Xorpunk] You done said some dumb stuff and irritated me. Thusly, here. OFF the SHELF 4 U.

          Now get this hothead outta here.

          1. “Oh, I see the disconnect from soldering a arm chip with a nic and flashing it with MD5 matched collision firmware. Versus ASIC and circuit simulation and applying common IP core libraries to enable the ASIC microcode, functions, io’s and capabilities.”

            If you see a “disconnect” from this there is no point arguing with you. Not knowing both are prerequisites to the other means YOU don’t know about the fields. FYI computer engineering IS electronics engineering..

            “MD5 matched collision firmware”

            MD5 collisions are publicly documented, and it doesn’t really have anything to do with the design I referenced.. You’re basically going way out of scope on the argument.. None of this addresses the circumstances of Edward Snowden.. Typical internet argument tactics..

    2. You have a point about Snowden smelling funny, because there is enough information openly available in journals, about what is technologically possible now, to indicate that organisations with bottomless pockets could have equipment fabricated that would blow people’s minds when compared with the 90’s era tech shown by Snowden. Except that the Russians are not that stupid so why do they bother to protect him? I have pondered this at length and I just can’t get the reality balance sheet to add up correctly no matter what reasonable scenario I use. There seems to be one or more missing variables.

      1. There are two variables here that have caused some confusion-
        1) The ANT catalog contains 90’s era tech as you mentioned. Most of the devices and techniques in the catalog are used by other foreign powers also. The issue the NSA has is not the contents of that particular document, but that it was leaked in the first place (it was embarrassing). The modern PALACE catalog contains far more advanced equipment, but is purposely divided into separate catalogs based on the FVEY user.
        2) The Russians use the same measures and countermeasures. They are not surprised by the documents Snowden released. But in a time when the US is on the verge of another cold war with Russia, they prefer to have what they perceive as the upper hand. Whether or not he is useful from an intelligence point of view makes no difference.

        1. But how does making the Russians look stupid help them? That helps the USA if you are talking about propaganda. Is the issue that almost everyone is stupid and does not realise that Snowden stole stuff that is 1. obvious and 2. really out of date?

          I know the “left” like to get all spittle foamy over such things but surely some of their number are smart enough to see how worthless the Snowden caper turned out to be. Hmmm perhaps it is a case of them not wanting to admit what fools they were early on before people pointed out how dated the stuff was?

          1. It doesn’t make the Russians look stupid. It makes Russia feel empowered, having a former US CIA agent share NSA documents with the world, and then seek asylum in Russia. From Russia’s point of view it makes the US look stupid.

            Only a small percentage of US population understand SIGINT or intelligence gathering equipment. The average person simply thinks “spying is bad” because they fear that equipment is being used on them, no matter how little such information would be worth (inflated egos). They are the people that throw a fit when they hear about “spying”. They are also the ones with little technical background, and are amazed by the seeming complexity of the outdated equipment they could never comprehend. This a one of many reasons to keep these sorts of things out of the public eye. They fear what they do not understand.

          2. Yeah, like I said most people are stupid, but if you are not stupid Russia does not look that wise, unless you consider that the propaganda is actually for their own people, a lot of Russians seem to have an almost third world level of ignorance. Look at how effective Putan’s antics are, take your shirt off and ride a horse and they think you are super man, LOL. Pretty crass when compared with the showmanship from Obama, but it works on the target population.

          3. For many people in the world, including the west, Russia looks like the good guy for taking in snowden.

            The left and right both have passionate defenders of privacy.

            Furthermore, Snowden leaks have been far from ‘useless’ – they have massively raised the profile of the security vs freedom vs spying argument. People who would have had very little to say in the recent past are now discussing spying, spying without warrants, evidence laundering, the role of surveillance, economic espionage at the state level and a whole host of sophisticated topics which previously had zero general discussion.

            Please further justify your position, or admit you are wrong and just a cranky old status-quo addict.

          4. Well given that you knew nothing of what happened 20 years ago it is simply logic to point out that you have no idea what is happening now therefore you are not in a position to prove if Snowden’s actions have mattered one way or the other, based on what you cannot demonstrate. What we can say, from what is actually evident, is that he stole some out of date documents about some really obvious stuff that every first-world government does and a lot of that “stuff” was already publicly documented, or suspected and not denied.

            So that is the real difference between us, I am logical and you are not.

          5. Every first world government certainly did not have direct access to all the tech companies NSA\USG did and does have access to.

            You obviously did not look at the documents. They transcend mere ‘technology by specs’ and detailed and hinted at a very nefarious network of governent-corporate cooperation well outside the law.

            It has never been as well supported by documents in the past, never. I have been following these topics for decades, ‘Dan’. I went to 2600 meetings in the 90s. What did you do in the 90s? I ran single line BBSes in the early 90s, and had dozens of daily callers. We have been discussing these topics for decades, ‘Dan’.

            I know what I am talking about. You clearly do not.

            Good day.

          6. Heh, what I do know is that I have comprehensibly proven here in these comments that you (despite your enthusiastic paranoia) actually know very little about stuff that I have demonstrate was actually published openly, because you don’t read anything relevant.

            So if you don’t know about the public facts why should we accept that you know anything about anything classified? Again that is simply logical, an entirely reasonable question.

          7. You do not even comprehend the nature of the Snowden docs. You dont seem to even know he wasnt the one that leaked the catalog. You dont seem to be shrewd enough to understand what the catalog itself was of. You seem to think the availability of technology, and when it was available is more important than the content of the leaks you decry.

            You obviously did not look at the documents. They transcend mere ‘technology by specs’ and detailed and hinted at a very nefarious network of governent-corporate cooperation well outside the law.

            You are pointless. Bye now!

        2. Snowden didnt leak the catalog. Applebaum seems to be the last public point of contact for that. And it was mostly from 2008ish, and much of it is credible for 2008. There was not all of that stuff in the 90s, not at all.. It didnt exist yet, some of it!

          Some of it was also 1950s retroreflector tech.

          Snowden is likely exactly what he seems to be, a guy who had less ‘invested’ in ‘normal society’, and therefor had retained humanity.

          The documents snowden released covered fairly ‘well known ground’ – but represented PROOF.

          And no it wasnt faked documents, obviously.

          It is certainly possible US TLAs let it happen though, knowing it would represent needed limited hangout, as well as a justification for various behaviors knee jerk authoritarians would immediately find appealing.

          1. To be clear, that catalog obviously was the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to spy tech – that was stuff it seems like ANY agent could get for any project – some uses likely would have been hamstrung by requiring a warrant, other uses would have been ‘info gathering only’ – and any evidence would be laundered via anonymous tips to LEO.

          2. It is pretty clear you have no idea what the “state of the art” is now if you think that leak wasn’t about as current as a Pentium II. Name one thing in it that wasn’t possible last century. You probably wouldn’t believe me that custom +20GHz chips have existed since the 90’s too.

          3. Dan, with very little due respect, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. You have enough venom to seem like a passionate holder of a position, but the position you seem to hold is non-sensical.

            Of course there is more advanced tech, but in terms of ‘everyday spy tech’, that catalog was very intriquing.

            One superb example is the USB\Ethernet cables with built in transmitters.. This was not something well known at all.

            The existence of ’20ghz chips’ is not proven, there is no evidence of this which I have seen. Not even rising to the level of a ‘conspiracy theory’, your statements are naive and unfounded.

            “The government has tech 20 years in the future” is a absolutely absurd, naive and empty-headed statement.

            The simple fact is that the government has secret applications of current tech, and also, of course, a limited sampling of tech not yet on the market, or which has very little potential commercial market and will never be commercialized.

            You guys seem to forget that chips are made in Asia for over 20 years now. Our government is more worried about secure manufacturing so foreign TLAs cannot get die level exploits on chips than they are with 20ghz cpus…


          4. QED you are so stupid you don’t even know you are stupid. Don’t get all spittle foamy with me boy, until you read about this, from over 15 years ago.


            Sorry to set you up to look the fool but you make it so easy.

            You have no idea about what is possible now or what could be done back in the 90’s, and for one reason, you spend all of your energy sharing your bullshit options with people when you should be studying what is already openly published.

            Who needs leeks and stolen, out of date, documents when you people are so lazy you don’t even read the publish science?

          5. No Dan – that simply is not relevant to the discussion – I dont know why you think the government is using such devices.

            The government uses COTS hardware, they use massive ammounts of it, and upgrade periodically, just like normal users.

            They do this for economic reasons.

            You can look at as many press releases about high performance hardware all you want.

            there is a simple fact here you would know intrinsically if you were sophisticated: pentium 2 cores multiplied by 50 on one die is not better than 20 modern processors working in a grid.

            You simply have no depth of knowledge to make the mistaken inferences you make. I knew you were going to post a link to a press release of some sort. You have to be a bit more shrewd and understand the real purpose of these press releases – corporate conspiracy.

            Ok, also, so you know, obviously 100ghz chips using pentium 2 era cores is not “20 years in the future” – it just is 100 normal 1ghz pentium cores packaged in one chip… 90s tech.

            Grow up. Get a brain.

          6. You also make another naive mistake – claiming the surveillance issue boils down to how old information is. Also, I dont even understand why we are arguing what tech was available when – the Snowden docs were not about that.

            The snowden docs, again, are about corporate and government surveillance of every person in the entire world. If you want to discuss this, go ahead now, I am about to loose interest in you.

            Information does not get old – you are clearly…. I dont even know what to say about you.

            And yes I know super computers, very custom devices are in use by government and TLA.. I also know these get obsolete just like anything else, and are being phased out.

            And please dont tell me you believe NSA has “quantum computers” – that would be more naive insanity in a world marked by competition and multiple competing parties to develop such devices. The USG is not god like. Other groups and organizations would also have this tech.

            This tech you are blathering about is not even a rational topic. Stop it!

        3. You obviously did not look at the documents. They transcend mere ‘technology by specs’ and detailed and hinted at a very nefarious network of governent-corporate cooperation well outside the law.

          1. 50% of what society does is well outside the law. There is nothing new about that either. Did you grow up on a sheltered commune or something? Pick anyone at random and dig into their activities deep enough and you have an even chance of finding something to prosecute them for. Humanity is utterly hypocritical, that is actually the norm, not some exception or a revelation at all.

          2. Wow.. I’m impressed that you had the energy to try to knock some sense into Dan for this long. I will say that you should be smart enough to know people like him can’t be reasoned with.

          3. Reason? Try the logical processing of relevant facts, I am still waiting for these facts to be presented in a logical argument that is both relevant and not something mundane, and obvious. Why should I accept the claims of a person that demonstrably has huge gaps in their knowledge of what is in the public domain? Because some guy said so based on (obviously) out of date data? Nah, I already pointed out what humans are like, in general, but that does not prove anything about any given individuals.

            Noirwhal made a fool of themselves and they deserved to be called out for it. Noirwhal has no idea about what goes on now and relies on stolen documents that clearly are very out of date. Why would all the tech stuff be old and the rest up-to-date? It wouldn’t, it is all out of date. So Noirwhal is an expert on nothing but their imagination, and some of what happened years ago which contains stuff that people (who are not naive) expect all governments to be doing.

            I challenge you to prove otherwise, you know with this “reason” that you think you are an expert on.

          4. Dan,

            For relevant learning, I recommend you strart at the first entry at and work up to the newest entry. Read the documents that are linked in the articles.

            Or google the following phrases:
            1) Fusion Center
            2) Snowden’s Job
            3) Fiber Optic Trunk Hack
            4) Evidence Laundering
            5) Parallel Construction
            6) ANT Catalog Leak

            You will quickly learn the extreme pervasiveness of surveilance efforts, and the nefarious form these are taking as the TLAs run roughshod over the spirit and letter of our western 1st world privacy laws.

          5. I suggest you actually read what I have said. Every government spies on everyone all the time and they always have, in fact some form of intelligence gathering is endemic to all levels and facets of society. That has never been disputed. In fact you are even guilty of trying to find out who people are thus breaching their privacy. What is disputed is your grasp on reality if you think you can lecture people about it because you have been shown to have a very poor grasp of what is currently technologically possible. The other problem with you is that you layer your politics over the top of your unqualified opinions and put yourself forward as and expert when you are from one, in fact you don’t even seem to be able to play the devils advocate and attempt to put a balanced view, you are grossly partisan. That is your choice, just don’t try foisting your political perversions on other people’s children or they will come after you and tear you down in front of them in order to demonstrate what a fraud you are.

        4. Just one year before snowden the director of NSA said that NSA does not spy on US citizens which is against the law. That they are spying on their own allies including their leaders. German people people didn’t know that their own inteligence agency is spying on their companies that are also military manufacturers(like airbus and siemens) and selling them to the foreign country which BTW started the most wars in past 3 decades, completly destabilised middle east and is still activley supporting Palestininan genocide.
          Also when Bradley maning published videos of unaremed people being killed from a hellicopter he was protected by the whistleblower program but arrested.
          And now they fucked up Syria to the point that thousands of imigrants are floding to europe every day.
          But hopefully they fucked up enoug this time to finaly break the petrodolar but only if Russia helps protect the syria from getting “democracy” for at least a year.
          Not to mention the non transparent shit tha TTIP and ISDS is, wich is their non miletary way of fuccking up Europe and our “ridiculus” standards for common good, prottecting the enviroment and wanting to eat non carcenogenic food.
          But yes snowden and Russia are the one looking ridiculus.
          Hopefully China rises as counterbalance before they fuck eferything up outside their country.

          rantmode off.

  2. I skipped half the very nicely modeled arguments to point out that the balance of cryptography lies in cracking vs creating. Stagnant cryptography culture results in codes built off previous works. Branches of code all come from the trains of logic developed in previous works. It’s entirely possible that each cryptographer may have a subconscious patterning built into the work that becomes sucsuessful. Much like natural pattern formation, each cryptography pattern is imprinted into the brains pathways as preferred patterning. So perhaps it’s only necessary to observe current communications as anything truly secret is never secure. Assume that what he was able to get from the CIA is only the base information that the 90% employee needs to know to filter. What about the 10% or the 1%. For that you don’t even have to look to online crime to see where the government infrastructure is designed to leverage. With the Chinese attacks on American computer interests you can see the political advantage of mass wholesale blackmailing. So while it’s is a mass invasion of privacy focus and detail only begin to concern when the government oversteps it’s bounds to regulate the way people interact. It always hurts people’s liberty. Regardless of the perception. It is no different than the man who pays his life for justice at the hands of a conviction of guilty on faulty justice. Remember the laws that are written are blind to humanity.

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