Infineon preparing post-quantum cryptography for cars

September 28, 2017 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Useful quantum computers are still several years, perhaps decades away. Nevertheless, chip company Infineon is already on its way to meet the future challenges of quantum computing. Because one of the most discussed features of quantum computing will be its capability to break even very sophisticated encryption schemes. And the security of the connected car stands and falls with the integrity of its data connections.

Quantum computing today is more a promise of the future than a practical approach. Though significant progress has been achieved over the past couple of years, in particular under the aspects of error correction, stability and scalability, today’s quantum computers have not even reached the status of infancy. Nevertheless, the avant-garde of innovative data companies such as Google and IBM is investing significant amounts of money into the further development of quantum computers, explains Manfred Lochter, consultant at Germany’s data security authority BSI.

Many industry branches, including materials science, medicine, pharmacy and metrology, are hoping for true wonders from quantum computers, but unity prevails above all with regard to QC's ability to break data encryption (and in particular the widespread asymmetric public-key encryption) in no time at all. Experts like Michele Mosca, co-founder of the Institute of Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo (Canada), sees a chance of 50% that by 2031 quantum computers will be able of breaking RSA-2048 encryption – a scheme today regarded as secure.

High time to act, says Andreas Fuchs, deputy department head for Cyber Physical System Security at the Fraunhofer Institute for Security in the Information Technology (SIT). The reason is that car-based systems that enter the development phase now will still populate the roads in more than a decade – in a time when the security of data connections can no longer be guaranteed thanks to the use of QC. This is owed to the relatively long design cycle of cars (today some 5 to 7 years), their relatively long production cycle of 5 to 10 years and more, and their subsequent life as consumer durables, with an additional lifetime of up to twelve years.