Caption: UMD President Darryll J. Pines (center) and NIST Associate Director Charles H. Romine (right) greet a researcher attending QCrypt 2023, one of two major quantum conferences held at Maryland this summer.
Bolstering its reputation as the “Capital of Quantum,” the University of Maryland campus was abuzz in August with hundreds of quantum cryptography experts attending two major conferences co-hosted by the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science (QuICS).
From August 14–18, the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering was home to QCrypt 2023. The annual conference—which featured tutorials, invited talks, contributed talks, and several poster sessions—was organized this year by QuICS and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
QCrypt is considered a premier forum for students and researchers working on theoretical and applied aspects of quantum cryptography. Founded in 2010, it has been instrumental in building a research community that lies at the intersection of information theory, cryptography, and atomic, molecular and optical physics.
Welcome remarks to QCrypt attendees—numbering more than 220 researchers from 28 countries—were offered by UMD President Darryll J. Pines and NIST Associate Director for Laboratory Programs Charles H. Romine.
Both Pines and Romine spoke of the extensive quantum-related research partnerships between UMD and NIST. There are currently more than a dozen NIST scientists embedded full-time on the UMD campus, with most of them having one-or-more appointments in either QuICS, the Joint Quantum Institute or the NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Robust Quantum Simulation.
“From the first memorandum of understanding in 2006 that established the Joint Quantum Institute, to the 2013 launch of the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science, to our substantive sharing of scientific talent and other resources today, we will continue to grow our unique academic/federal partnership that is focused on all things quantum,” Pines said.
During his remarks, Romine acknowledged the numerous graduate students and early career scientists in attendance, saying that they “represented the future of securing our most critical information systems on a global scale.”
Running in tandem with QCrypt for several days was PQCrypto 2023, a major international forum for researchers to present published results and exchange new ideas on post-quantum cryptography. The three-day conference (August 16–18)—co-organized by QuICS and NIST—drew more than 140 attendees and was held in the university’s Stamp Student Union. It featured four invited talks, 25 contributed talks, and a published conference proceedings.
Since its founding in 2006, PQCrypto has risen in importance due to the development of quantum computers that might someday threaten the security of systems currently used to secure the internet, such as the RSA, Diffie-Hellman and elliptic curve discrete log cryptosystems. To protect against this threat, numerous new “post-quantum” cryptosystems have been proposed. While some of these cryptosystems are widely believed to be secure, the overall enterprise is not without risk—in recent years, a small number of post-quantum cryptosystems have been broken because of closer scrutiny by researchers.
“There is a lot of urgent activity involving post-quantum cryptography right now, which requires clear communication and strong relationships among technical experts,” said Yi-Kai Liu, a QuICS co-director who was a lead organizer for PQCrypto 2023. “For this reason, it was essential to have an in-person meeting like this.”
In addition to the technical presentations, the conference featured a brief ceremony where NIST researchers presented award plaques to the designers of four post-quantum cryptosystems that have been selected by NIST to become standards.
“The first PQC standards will be finalized next year, and will provide the security we need against future quantum attacks,” said Dustin Moody, a NIST researcher leading the post-quantum cryptography project. “These standards would not have been possible without a collaboration between government, industry, and academia—all of whom were well represented at this year's PQCrypto conference.”
Significant administrative and technical support for QCrypt 2023 was provided by the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, with QuICS providing onsite support for the PQCrypto event.