Preparing for quantum cryptography, U.S Air Force partners up with SandboxAQ 

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The clock is ticking for public key encryption. With researchers anticipating that quantum computers will be able to decrypt public key algorithms as soon as 2030, organizations are under increasing pressure to find quantum-resistant algorithms to protect their data from threat actors. 

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One such organization is the United States Department of Air Force, who today, entered into a partnership with AI and quantum security provider SandboxAQ, awarding the vendor a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract. 

As part of the contract, the provider will conduct post-quantum cryptographic inventory analysis and performance benchmarking. 

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More broadly, the Air Force’s partnership with SandboxAQ highlights that the threat of post-quantum computing isn’t merely an abstract, theoretical threat, but a plausible risk that enterprises need to prepare to address now. 

The mandate for quantum cryptography 

This new partnership marks SandboxAQ’s first military contract since being spun off from Alphabet In March earlier this year, and is part of the Air Force’s attempt to prepare for The Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Preparedness Act, which requires US federal agencies to upgrade to post-quantum encryption. 

The announcement comes amid a wave after NIST chose four post-quantum encryption algorithms that will become part of its post-quantum cryptographic standard, and after Google Cloud announced it has deployed a post-quantum cryptographic algorithm to help secure its internal ALTS protocol. 

While the momentum of post-quantum cryptography may appear speculative on first glance, the risks posed by quantum computing can be seen now. For instance, Harvest now decrypt later or store-now-decrypt-later attacks mean that nation-state actors and cybercriminals can collect and store encrypted data today, to decrypt at a later date. 

“U.S adversaries are gathering encrypted data with the intent to exploit it once they deploy quantum computers – these are known as ‘store-now-decrypt-later’ attacks,” said President of Public Sector at SandboxAQ, Jen Sovada. 

If successful, these attacks would enable threat actors to decrypt protected information at will. 

“Quantum computers in the hands of adversarial nation states could devastate U.S national security if post-quantum cryptography, or PQC, is not urgently implemented. PQC deployment across national security systems is expected to take years and SandBoxAQ is proud to support the Air Force in this critical first step,” Sovada said. 

The quantum cryptography market 

SandboxAQ falls within the quantum cryptography market, which researchers estimate will grow from a value of $102.34 million in 2021 to reach $476.83 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 18.67% as more enterprises look to prepare for Y2Q. 

As the market grows, other post-quantum providers like PQShield are also attracting significant interest, raising $20 million in Series A funding earlier this year, offering enterprises cryptography on chip and in the cloud. This includes IoT firmware, public key infrastructure, server technologies and end-user applications. 

It’s worth noting that PQShield researchers also contributed to the development of each of the first international PQC NIST standards. 

Another promising provider in the space is Post Quantum, which provides a quantum-safe end-to-end encrypted messaging app, post-quantum VPN, and quantum-ready multi-factor biometric identity system for passwordless sign in. According to Crunchbase, Post-Quantum has raised $11.2 million in funding to date. 

SandboxAQ’s partnership with the US Air Force, and its plans to forge further relationships across the public sector will help to situate it as one of the most “battle-tested” post-quantum cryptography providers in the market. 

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