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OMB Memo on Post-Quantum Encryption Migration

Updated on 2022-11-21: Quantum encryption deadline

The Office of Management and Budget has ordered federal agencies to scan their systems and provide an inventory of assets containing cryptographic systems that could be cracked by quantum computers in the coming years. Agencies have a deadline until May 4, 2023, according to an OMB memo [PDF]. The memo comes after the White House directed US government agencies to mitigate risks from quantum computers earlier this year and after the NSA ordered that all government agencies that handle classified information must use quantum-resistant encryption algorithms by 2035. Read more:

Overview: OMB Memo on Post-Quantum Encryption Migration

US federal civilian government agencies have until May 2023 to provide the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Office of the National Cyber Director with a list of their systems vulnerable to a cryptographically relevant quantum computer. According to an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memo, agencies must submit the information by May 4, 2023 and update the list annually through 2035.

Note

  • Quantum computing still has a way to go to break current ciphers. As a “quick fix”, increasing key sizes in existing ciphers may buy additional time. But you need to start these migration initiatives early, long before the actual threat materializes. It is nice to see OMB worry about these issues before they are becoming an emergency.
  • A relatively straight-forward directive to take action on. Knowing one’s environment is foundational to essential cyber hygiene. The first 3 CIS critical security controls focus on inventory of hardware, software, and data sensitivity/location.
  • Moving to post-quantum cryptography (PQC) is going to take deliberate effort over multiple years and will need to be tracked and supported. While this data call starts that process out, it’s a bit premature as we don’t have finalized standards for Quantum Crypto, let alone products to deploy, meaning the answer to this data call is effectively “everything in scope.” The memo is also asking agencies to produce budget estimates to implement PQC, which is again difficult without products to incorporate. The memo attempts to prioritize by focusing on high impact systems, high-value-assets (HVAs), systems which are particularly vulnerable top CRQD-based attacks as well as logical access control systems or those containing mission relevant data, while excluding National Security Systems (NSS).
  • Perhaps a little aggressive but doable for most.

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