SandboxAQ releases post-quantum cryptography ‘meta-library’ for developers

SandboxAQ releases post-quantum cryptography ‘meta-library’ for developers

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Well-funded quantum software startup Sandbox AQ today debuted Sandwich, an open-source framework designed to help developers build more secure applications.

SandboxAQ, officially SB Technology Inc., spun out of Alphabet Inc. last year. It went on to raise $500 million from a group of prominent investors. The startup counts Salesforce Inc. founder Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures and former Google LLC Chief Executive Eric Schmidt among its backers. 

One of SandboxAQ’s focus areas is helping companies fend off attempts to decipher their encrypted data using quantum computers. The new Sandwich framework it debuted today extends that effort and also promises to ease companies’ cybersecurity operations in other ways. 

Simplified encryption management 

Encrypting an application’s data requires developers to embed encryption algorithms into that application’s code base. Software teams usually don’t write new encryption algorithms from scratch. Instead, they use the existing cryptography software that is available in the open-source ecosystem.

Though software teams don’t have to create everything from scratch, implementing encryption algorithms in an application is still challenging. To streamline the process, open-source developers have created multiple free libraries that simplify the task of encrypting data. Such libraries provide not only prepackaged cryptography algorithms but also tools that make those algorithms easier to use. 

Sandwich, SandboxAQ’s new open-source framework, is likewise designed to make encryption easier to implement. It’s described as a “meta-library” by the startup. Sandwich incorporates features from several existing open-source encryption libraries.

The primary purpose of Sandwich is to make it easier to swap an application’s encryption algorithm for another. In the enterprise, there are multiple reasons why developers might wish to switch algorithms.

The first reason is that a technical issue might be discovered in the encryption technology that powers an important application. In such situations, switching to a different encryption algorithm usually requires extensive software changes. SandboxAQ says its Sandwich framework significantly reduces the need for code modifications when switching algorithms.

Quantum security 

The ability to easily change an application’s encryption mechanism is also important for companies implementing post-quantum cryptography. That’s an emerging technology designed to address the potential risks posed by quantum computers.

Today’s encryption algorithms work by hiding data behind a complex math problem that would take a supercomputer millions of years to solve. Because solving the problem is practically impossible, hackers can’t access the data. But quantum computing could potentially change that. 

It’s believed quantum processors may eventually become faster than today’s most powerful supercomputers. In that scenario, the math problems that encryption algorithms use to protect data would suddenly become solvable. A problem that takes millions of years for a classical supercomputer to untangle could be answered nearly instantly by a sufficiently advanced quantum processor, rendering traditional encryption ineffective.

To ensure data will remain safe, researchers are developing a new generation of cryptography algorithms. Those algorithms aim to take advantage of the fact that tomorrow’s large-scale quantum computers are only expected to be adept at solving some, and not all, math problems. So-called post-quantum cryptography hides data behind math problems that are believed to be too tricky for even quantum machines to solve.

SandboxAQ says Sandwich works with three open-source encryption libraries on launch: OpenSSL, BoringSSL and libOQS. That last library provides access to several post-quantum cryptography algorithms. Using Sandwich, a company could implement standard encryption in its applications and quickly switch to a post-quantum algorithm when necessary.

The features are accessible through a relatively simple application programming interface. According to SandboxAQ, the API’s simplicity makes it straightforward for developers to integrate it into their software. Additionally, it’s relatively easy for audit teams to check that a Sandwich-powered application’s encryption algorithms are implemented correctly. 

Sandwich allows developers to bundle encryption algorithms and related tools into a code structure called a Sandwich object. That code structure can then be integrated into applications. According to SandboxAQ, an application may mix and match encryption algorithms from a Sandwich object as needed. 

Future releases of the framework will offer additional features. According to SandboxAQ, the plan is to let developers create smaller, more hardware-efficient Sandwich objects that include only a limited number of encryption features. That arrangement can help reduce applications’ infrastructure requirements.

“Modern cryptography management and cryptographic agility are becoming increasingly more essential for businesses of all sizes,” said Graham Steel, the head of product for SandboxAQ’s quantum security group. “However, there has been a distinct lack of open-source tools for developers to support these features.”

SandboxAQ says that it originally built Sandwich to support internal development initiatives. The framework powers parts of the company’s flagship offering, a cybersecurity toolkit called Security Suite. The open-source license under which Sandwich is distributed will allow companies to use the framework in both internal projects and commercial software products. 

Image: SandboxAQ

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