Abu Dhabi launches crypto library to counter supercomputer threats

The new library is a collection of algorithms to protect data in a fast-changing threat environment

A man takes a photo of a model of the IBM Q System One quantum computer during the 2020 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Steve Marcus
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A week after announcing the UAE's first quantum computer, Abu Dhabi has opened a software library to store algorithms capable of fighting off attacks from the super-fast machines.

The Technology Innovation Institute, which focuses on applied research for Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), said on Monday that it has launched the software library for a cyber threat landscape that includes quantum computing.

"Our researchers have worked hard to make this revolutionary project a reality," said Faisal Al Bannai, secretary general of the Advanced Technology Research Council.

"To meet the growing level of sophistication in the world of data ... we are currently engaged in many more such ventures for the future."

Quantum computers represent a massive acceleration in computing speed and performance.

The world's biggest economies, from the US, Russia, China and Japan, as well as tech titans IBM, Alibaba and Google, are all battling for supremacy in the field.

While the machines may one day surface answers from how to cure cancer to the origins of the universe, the flip side of this massive potential is a dangerous new front in cyber security.

With the rise of quantum computers, classic cryptographic algorithms are inadequate to secure data and communication. To address the demand for a new, more advanced level of security, cryptographers are now engaged in developing so-called "post-quantum" algorithms.

To that end, Abu Dhabi's new library is a collection of algorithms to safeguard confidential data and information that aims to advance digital data security in the capital and the broader UAE. Researchers have focused on data confidentiality, integrity, authentication and privacy.

“Quantum computing capabilities are a potential threat to data security. This fact underscores the importance of the launch of the UAE’s first post-quantum cryptography library to guard against quantum computer attacks," said Najwa Aaraj, chief researcher at the Cryptography Research Centre, which spearheaded the library.

Ms Aaraj added that the first release of the library's algorithms have "already been integrated in several secure communication products" in the UAE and will be foundational to data security going forward.

International and Emirati researchers collaborated to build the new software library written in a general-purpose programming language that supports a wide variety of computer architectures and operating systems.

The Quantum Research Centre lab is also meanwhile underway on building its own quantum computer with the aim of generating breakthroughs in drug discovery and battery technology.

“We are at the cusp of a new era with the advent of quantum computing,” said Mr Al Bannai when the project was announced.

The aim is to make the first 'made in Abu Dhabi' quantum chips by the end of the summer.

Supercomputers of the future