Breakthrough in post-quantum cyber-security

Still in their infancy, quantum computers will become way more powerful than the computers we know today. They will open a wealth of new opportunities but will also greatly increase the risk of cyber criminals breaking the codes which protect data. In Japan, NICT (National Institute of Information and Communications Technology) and TOPPAN Digital have jointly developed the world’s first technology for equipping smart card systems with cryptography able to withstand even quantum computer attacks.

TOPPAN Digital (a TOPPAN Group company and wholly owned subsidiary of TOPPAN Holdings Inc.), and NICT will apply the new solution to quantum secure cloud technology that enables the secure communication, storage, and use of highly sensitive information.

In a pilot test, the technology proved able to protect healthcare data.

The two organisations will also aim to establish safe and secure social infrastructure based on the creation of fundamental technologies that ensure security for day-to-day internet-based activities including e-mail, online shopping, cashless transactions, and online banking.

Builds on next generation algorithm

In today’s information-driven society, a range of internet-based services are protected by digital signatures, authentication, and key exchange based on public-key cryptography as well as by data encryption based on symmetric-key cryptography.

There is a risk, however, that cryptosystems widely used today will be vulnerable to attacks from quantum computers, a field in which research and development is moving at a rapid pace. Therefore, preparations are underway for migration to post-quantum cryptography that will be difficult to decipher even for quantum computers.

A frontrunner in these preparations is the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In July 2022, NIST selected the next-generation digital signature algorithm CRYSTALS-Dilithium as a potential standard technology. The new encryption solution PQC CARD developed jointly by NICT and TOPPAN Digital is the world’s first smart card equipped with CRYSTALS-Dilithium encryption. A third partner is ISARA Corporation, specializing in cryptography technology.

Migration is predicted to take 10 years

World-wide migration to public-key cryptographies is expected as they become de facto global standards. To address the cybersecurity risks posed by quantum computers, efforts to establish and advance the use of robust new cryptography technologies are underway in the US, including a National Security Memorandum signed by President Joe Biden in May 2022.

Complete migration to the new cryptographies is predicted to take about 10 years. This means prompt action is needed to keep pace with progress towards the practical use of quantum computers. Addressing this challenge, the three partners – TOPPAN Digital, NICT, and ISARA – have developed the new solution. The development was supported by two strategic Japanese government programs on quantum technology and cryptography networks respectively.

The effectiveness of the new solution was confirmed by applying PQC CARD for smart card authentication and digital medical records control on the healthcare data storage system H-LINCOS, which is operated by NICT.

Based on the results, TOPPAN Digital and NICT expect to be able to establish technology for equipping smart card systems with post-quantum cryptography and to advance the adoption of the cryptography to facilitate a smooth transition to encryption infrastructure for the quantum computing age.


The text is inspired by the article “Toppan and NICT establish world’s first technology for equipping smart card systems with post-quantum cryptography selected by NIST” at the NICT website.

Published: 12/2023

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