CCO: Cybersecurity and Combinatorial Optimization

Using Quantum Computing to evolve cybersecurity
Thematic area: Digital society, Projects
Financing: ICSC Innovation Grants
Enabling Technology: Knowledge Graph, Quantum computing

The project consists in the simulation of a quantum attack on an encrypted communication using RSA protocol. The acquisition of knowledge and experience in “data breach” prevention is considered among the prerequisites. It is planned to study innovative methodologies to understand limits and vectors of future attacks. The objective is to demonstrate that quantum computers decrypt a message protected by RSA symmetric/asymmetric key encryption by considering the approaches of Quantum Annealing and Quantum variational factorization (VQF) algorithm.

Italian Research Center on High Performance Computing Big Data and Quantum Computing (ICSC), project funded by European Union – NextGenerationEU – and National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) – Mission 4 Component 2. 

The goal

The project aims to assess the resilience of existing cryptographic systems against emerging threats linked to the potency of quantum computing. By designing and implementing algorithms capable of attacking vulnerabilities in cryptographic systems based on classical algorithms, the goal is to assess the security of real communications and stored real data.  

Therefore, the main focus will be on schemes that rely on factorization (e.g., RSA) and discrete logarithm problems (e.g., Diffie-Hellman key exchange), based on some appropriate encryption keys for messages during transmission from a sender to a receiver.  

Another goal revolves around data leaks: the project aims to assess how resistant classic systems are when it comes to deciphering encrypted data. This can be done by implementing a simplified version of a common algorithm, such as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) or the Triple Data Standard (3DES). 

The initial challenge

The initial challenge that gave rise to the project is the potential threat that quantum computers pose to classical cryptographic systems. Advanced research on quantum computers suggests that they could break many of the public-key cryptographic systems currently in use, such as the RSA protocol. Shor’s algorithm showed that a quantum computer could efficiently solve the factorization of integers, thus undermining the safety of such systems. By simulating a quantum attack on an encrypted communication, it wants to assess the resilience of existing cryptographic systems against such emerging threats.  

The solution

The approach devised for the solution involves:  

  • Research and Analysis: Conduct an in-depth analysis of the current state of quantum computing and its implications for cybersecurity. Identify existing algorithms and assess their quantum attack capability.  
  • Algorithm Design and Implementation: Develop algorithms that show improvements over previous quantum and classical algorithms. Implement these algorithms in software models and evaluate their performance and weaknesses. 
  • Prototyping and testing: Build software demonstrators or prototypes to validate the proposed algorithms. Evaluate their efficiency and scalability. 


The main benefit is the development of a more robust defense against quantum cyber threats. The project will contribute to policy discussions and the development of standards in the field of quantum cybersecurity, offering recommendations and guidance to industry stakeholders on how to protect critical infrastructure, sensitive data and privacy in the post-quantum era.  

On the practical side, the project helps bridge the gap between theoretical research and real-world applications by exploring practical aspects such as the implementation and testing of quantum computer-resistant algorithms in real-world scenarios. This proactive approach to quantum threats gives organizations a competitive advantage, enhancing their reputation and creating new business opportunities by demonstrating their commitment to protecting customer data.  

Finally, the project has academic importance in the field of quantum cybersecurity, providing the opportunity to publish research and present results at international conferences and workshops.


Partecipating Spoke

Spoke 10

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Sustainable Development Goals

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