KEMTLS: Post-quantum TLS without signatures

Points to note…

+  TLS is the main protocol that protects the connections we use everyday. It’s everywhere: we use it when we buy products online, when we register for a newsletter — when we access any kind of website, IoT device, API for mobile apps and more, really. But with the imminent threat of the arrival of quantum computers (a threat that seems to be getting closer and closer), we need to reconsider the future of TLS once again. A wide-scale post-quantum experiment was carried out by Cloudflare and Google: two post-quantum key exchanges were integrated into our TLS stack and deployed at our edge servers as well as in Chrome Canary clients. The goal of that experiment was to evaluate the performance and feasibility of deployment of two post-quantum key exchanges in TLS.

The implementation is easy to work with: if a delegated credential or a certificate has a public key of a supported post-quantum KEM algorithm, the handshake will proceed with KEMTLS. If the server requests a Client KEMTLS Certificate, the handshake will use client KEMTLS authentication.


+  Similar experiments have been proposed for introducing post-quantum algorithms into the TLS handshake itself. Unfortunately, it seems infeasible to replace both the key exchange and signature with post-quantum primitives, because post-quantum cryptographic primitives are bigger, or slower (or both), than their predecessors. The proposed algorithms under consideration in the NIST post-quantum standardization process use mathematical objects that are larger than the ones used for elliptic curves, traditional Diffie-Hellman, or RSA. As a result, the overall size of public keys, signatures and key exchange material is much bigger than those from elliptic curves, Diffie-Hellman, or RSA.

+  By replacing the handshake signature by a KEM key exchange, we reduce the size of the data transmitted in the example handshake to 8,344 bytes, using Kyber512 and Dilithium II — a significant reduction. We can reduce the handshake size even for algorithms such as the NTRU-assumption based KEM NTRU and signature algorithm Falcon, which have a less-pronounced size gap. Typically, KEM operations are computationally much lighter than signing operations, which makes the reduction even more significant.

Source:  The Cloudflare Blog.  Sofia Celi & Thom Wiggers,  KEMTLS: Post-quantum TLS without signatures…

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