SK Telecom (SKT), the largest mobile operator in Korea, and Thales, a leader in digital security, have joined forces to conduct advanced quantum-resistant cryptography tests. Based on a 5G standalone network and 5G SIM, the collaboration focuses on securing the encryption and decryption of subscriber identities in a manner resilient to future quantum threats.
The initiative aims to advance to protecting subscribers from potential “record now, decrypt later” attacks, enhancing user privacy through a conventional commercial telecom network.
The partnership involves the development of subscriber identity module (SIM)-network authentication technology utilizing post-quantum cryptography (PQC), seamlessly integrated into a 5G test network.
The innovation primarily revolves around advancing cryptography to anonymize digital identities within the 5G network infrastructure. Specifically, the concealment and security of user identity on a 5G network are strengthened using the 5G SIM on the device side.
The security framework involves the implementation of cryptographic algorithms designed to withstand potential attacks from quantum computers in the post-quantum era, ensuring a defense against evolving threats.
In alignment with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) ongoing efforts to standardize post-quantum cryptographic algorithms, SK Telecom (SKT) and Thales have executed a real-world trial utilizing the Crystals-Kyber algorithm.
SK Telecom reported seamless operations encompassing registration, authentication, and call reception during this comprehensive technical test using the PQC algorithm. The successful execution mirrored the functionalities of existing security systems for the viability and efficacy of post-quantum cryptographic algorithms in real-world operational conditions.
“As quantum computers have the potential to break certain existing cryptographic algorithms, there is an emerging need to transition to cryptographic algorithms believed to be secure against quantum attacks. For 5G networks, Thales started to invest in cryptographic algorithms that are quantum-resistant to enhance continued communications security and privacy for users,” said Eva Rudin, SVP of Mobile Connectivity & Solutions at Thales.
In the words of Yu Takki, Head of Infrastructure Technology at SK Telecom, the forward-looking vision involves combining the post-quantum cryptography SIM with broader expertise to realize end-to-end quantum-safe communications. The ultimate objective is to develop a comprehensive security system that not only encompasses communication networks but extends its protective capabilities to a spectrum of services.
SK Telecom aims to spearhead global standardization efforts in network security, particularly in the realms of 5G-advanced, 6G, and the evolving landscape of the Internet of Things (IoT).
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