AES 256 is Quantum-Resistant, Capable of Withstanding Brute-Force Attack
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has yet to announce its final list of post-quantum security algorithms and encryption schemes designed to resist quantum computer attacks. The cybersecurity and quantum technology sectors are just a part of the larger audience anticipating this list. AES 256 has been referred to as the “larger-block-size sibling to the more commonly used AES-128 encryption standard, requiring one private key that both parties must protect, whereas RSA uses a public key that anyone can use for encryption and then a private key for decryption.”
Once NIST posts this list, it has been reported that many technology companies will be taking their place in line to assist with upgrades to systems and devices where current encryption such as RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman) and Elliptic Curve will become outdated and needs NIST’s post-quantum cryptography (PQC) solutions.
Reports suggest one existing encryption scheme believed to be quantum-resistant: the Advanced Encryption Standard-256 (AES 256). This is a symmetric block cipher used by the American government to encrypt sensitive data. Individuals and corporations also use this to protect and safeguard valuable and sensitive information.
As reported in an article written by Dan O’Shea, an email sent from Bluefin CIO Tim Barnett indicated that “AES 256 advanced encryption is so secure even brute-force couldn’t possibly break it.” Barnett’s email referenced Grover’s Algorithm and how even a “brute-force attack time can be reduced to its square root, and if it is still sufficiently large, it becomes impractical to use as an attack vector.”
Effectively, a quantum computer of sufficient strength can cut an AES key size in half, so the recommendation is to double your AES key length. If you use AES-128 you should convert to AES-256 and if you use AES-256 you should convert to AES-512. With quantum computing quickly becoming a reality, it has been estimated in a research paper by Kryptera that these computers capable of more than “6,600 logical, error-corrected qubits would be required” to significantly impact AES-256. To provide you with a comparison, “IBM’s quantum computer is only expected to achieve 1,121 qubits in 2023.”
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