Researchers have calculated the quantum computer size necessary to break 256-bit elliptic curve public-key cryptography:
Finally, we calculate the number of physical qubits required to break the 256-bit elliptic curve encryption of keys in the Bitcoin network within the small available time frame in which it would actually pose a threat to do so. It would require 317 × 106 physical qubits to break the encryption within one hour using the surface code, a code cycle time of 1 μs, a reaction time of 10 μs, and a physical gate error of 10-3. To instead break the encryption within one day, it would require 13 × 106 physical qubits.
In other words: no time soon. Not even remotely soon. IBM’s largest ever superconducting quantum computer is 127 physical qubits.
Posted on February 9, 2022 at 6:25 AM •
Reuters has a long article on the Chinese government APT attack called Cloud Hopper. It was much bigger than originally reported.
The hacking campaign, known as “Cloud Hopper,” was the subject of a U.S. indictment in December that accused two Chinese nationals of identity theft and fraud. Prosecutors described an elaborate operation that victimized multiple Western companies but stopped short of naming them. A Reuters report at the time identified two: Hewlett Packard Enterprise and IBM.
Yet the campaign ensnared at least six more major technology firms, touching five of the world’s 10 biggest tech service providers.
Also compromised by Cloud Hopper, Reuters has found: Fujitsu, Tata Consultancy Services, NTT Data, Dimension Data, Computer Sciences Corporation and DXC Technology. HPE spun-off its services arm in a merger with Computer Sciences Corporation in 2017 to create DXC.
Waves of hacking victims emanate from those six plus HPE and IBM: their clients. Ericsson, which competes with Chinese firms in the strategically critical mobile telecoms business, is one. Others include travel reservation system Sabre, the American leader in managing plane bookings, and the largest shipbuilder for the U.S. Navy, Huntington Ingalls Industries, which builds America’s nuclear submarines at a Virginia shipyard.
Posted on July 10, 2019 at 5:51 AM •
Today is my last day at IBM.
If you’ve been following along, IBM bought my startup Resilient Systems in Spring 2016. Since then, I have been with IBM, holding the nicely ambiguous title of “Special Advisor.” As of the end of the month, I will be back on my own.
I will continue to write and speak, and do the occasional consulting job. I will continue to teach at the Harvard Kennedy School. I will continue to serve on boards for organizations I believe in: EFF, Access Now, Tor, EPIC, Verified Voting. And I will increasingly be an advocate for public-interest technology.
Posted on June 28, 2019 at 2:04 PM •
The Intercept published a story about a dedicated NSA brute-force keysearch machine being built with the help of New York University and IBM. It’s based on a document that was accidentally shared on the Internet by NYU.
The article is frustratingly short on details:
The WindsorGreen documents are mostly inscrutable to anyone without a Ph.D. in a related field, but they make clear that the computer is the successor to WindsorBlue, a next generation of specialized IBM hardware that would excel at cracking encryption, whose known customers are the U.S. government and its partners.
Experts who reviewed the IBM documents said WindsorGreen possesses substantially greater computing power than WindsorBlue, making it particularly adept at compromising encryption and passwords. In an overview of WindsorGreen, the computer is described as a “redesign” centered around an improved version of its processor, known as an “application specific integrated circuit,” or ASIC, a type of chip built to do one task, like mining bitcoin, extremely well, as opposed to being relatively good at accomplishing the wide range of tasks that, say, a typical MacBook would handle. One of the upgrades was to switch the processor to smaller transistors, allowing more circuitry to be crammed into the same area, a change quantified by measuring the reduction in nanometers (nm) between certain chip features.
Unfortunately, the Intercept decided not to publish most of the document, so all of those people with “a Ph.D. in a related field” can’t read and understand WindsorGreen’s capabilities. What sorts of key lengths can the machine brute force? Is it optimized for symmetric or asymmetric cryptanalysis? Random brute force or dictionary attacks? We have no idea.
Whatever the details, this is exactly the sort of thing the NSA should be spending their money on. Breaking the cryptography used by other nations is squarely in the NSA’s mission.
EDITED TO ADD (6/13): Some of the documents are online.
Posted on May 16, 2017 at 6:40 AM •
It’s officially final; IBM has “completed the acquisition” of Resilient Systems, Inc. We are now “Resilient, an IBM Company.”
As I expected when I announced this acquisition, I am staying on as the CTO of Resilient and something like Senior Advisor to IBM Security—we’re still working on the exact title. Everything I’ve seen so far indicates that this will be a good home for me. They know what they’re getting, and they’re still keeping me on. I have no intention of changing what I write about or speak about—or to whom.
For the company, this is still a great deal. The acquisition was big news at the RSA Conference a month ago, and we’ve gotten nothing but a positive response from analysts and a primarily positive response from customers.
Here’s a video of Resilient CEO John Bruce talking with IBM Security General Manager Marc van Zadelhoff about the acquisition. And here’s an analyst talking about the acquisition.
Posted on April 6, 2016 at 12:47 PM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.