BIS pilots ‘quantum-safe’ financial comms channel

Quantum BIS encryption

The European arm of The Bank of International Settlements (BIS), ‘the central bank of central banks’, has announced the co-development of a “quantum-safe” communications channel claimed to be resistant to next-generation quantum computer-based encryption breakers set to pose “one of the most significant cybersecurity threats” to financial data.

Dubbed ‘Project Leap’, and co-developed with Banque de France and Deutsche Bundesbank, the experiment sought to develop a replacement solution for current cryptographic security algorithms heavily relied upon by today’s financial services providers to secure financial data communications.

The project involved the transmission of test payment messages via a quantum-resistant Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnel between servers located in Paris and Frankfurt.

“Quantum computers,” the BIS noted, “once they reach sufficient size and power, will be able to easily break the cryptographic encryption schemes currently used to ensure secure financial transactions and data.”

“This is one of the most significant cybersecurity threats facing the financial system today, potentially exposing all transactions and much of our existing stored financial data to attack. Experts refer to that risk as ‘Q Day’.”

Experts predict that a quantum computer could conceivably crack a cypher that uses a typical public key encryption system (like RSA-2048 or ECC cryptography) in seconds – one that could take a classical computer trillions of years to break.

The BIS added that while functional quantum computers are not yet available, “the security threat is immediate, and needs to be urgently addressed”.

The BIS-led project also seeks, in some manner, to address an existing threat plaguing financial services businesses – the ability for malicious actors to intercept and store classically encrypted data with the intention of decrypting it later when quantum computers become more powerful.

According to the BIS, the success of the Project Leap experiment “paves the way for the BIS Innovation Hub Eurosystem Centre and its partners to build a complete chain of trust for central bank applications in the post-quantum world, acting as a blueprint for the financial system”.