The realisation of a large-scale quantum computer is going to completely break the security infrastructure we rely on today as Quantum algorithms can break the widely used RSA and ECC families of Public Key Cryptography (PKC). There are two major approaches to counter the threat. First is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), which can provide cryptographic primitives like true randomness and the secure distribution of keys offering unconditional security, however, its adoption vs. classical computing platforms used today may be challenging and costly. The second solution is to replace the Public Key Cryptography standards in use today with quantum-resistant or Post Quantum Cryptographic schemes (based on mathematical problems not vulnerable to quantum attacks). The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s Post Quantum Cryptography (PQC) initiative, which began in 2016 aims to recommend (by 2022-23) a suite of quantum resistant algorithms suitable for worldwide adoption. A third possibility is a hybrid solution, combining QKD, PQC and currently used public key cryptography. This approach is appealing as it will not only help maintain inter-operability during migration but it also offers assurances against the as yet unknown quantum attacks. In terms of security, it combines the best features of both QKD and PQC by ensuring perfect forward secrecy and catering for different adversarial strengths (both quantum and classical).
The PhD position is funded by the Quantum Communications Hub as part of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme. The student will have an opportunity to be part of the Hub, which comprises a team of experts from 9 universities and 9 industrial project partners including BT and NPL. This position is hosted at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), which is an academic partner of the Hub. The vision of the Quantum Communications Hub is to establish national capability in the research, development and exploitation of quantum and post-quantum technologies into wider and viable quantum-safe security solutions for real-world operation.
This project will study the practicability of Hybrid QKD-PQC quantum resistant cryptographic solutions. Pursuing integration between these technologies and its integration with conventional communications infrastructure brings about a range of vulnerabilities and tackling them will generate strong academic impact across the research community that contribute to these technologies. The key scientific problems it will address are the following:
- Investigate practical integrated PQC-QKD designs.
- Undertake a vulnerability analysis of the physical security of integrated PQC-QKD designs including side channel analysis attacks and/ or fault attacks.
- Investigate and implement countermeasures (hardware/ software) into the integrated QKD-PQC systems to protect them against physical attacks.
This 3.5 year studentship, for full-time PhD study, is funded by UKRI and commences on 1 October 2022.
For UK domiciled students the value of an award includes the cost of approved tuition fees as well as maintenance support (Fees £4,500 pa and Stipend rate £15,609 pa – 2022-23 rates to be confirmed).
Further information on the position and how to apply can be found on the Find a PhD website.