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Markku-Juhani Saarinen from Tampere University is taking part in the organization of the renowned PQCrypto conference

Published on 10.4.2024
Tampere University
Professor of Practice at Tampere University Markku-Juhani Saarinen is organizing the renowned PQCrypto2024 conference in Oxford, dedicated to encryption methods resistant to quantum attacks. The transition to new quantum-safe encryption standards has now started, and security will be on focus also in the next SoC Hub chip to which Saarinen is contributing.

Tampere University professor and cryptographer Markku-Juhani Saarinen acts as the program committee chair for PQCrypto2024 conference, taking place at Mathematical Institute of Oxford University 12­–14 June. PQCrypto serves as a forum for researchers to present results and exchange ideas on the topic of cryptography in an era with large-scale quantum computers. Dr. Saarinen leads the program committee of 50 persons and is also part of the conference organizing team.

Saarinen was the first employee at PQShield, a University of Oxford spin-out in 2018, and he lived in Oxford until moving back to Finland and Tampere in 2023. PQShield has grown to a company of more than 50 people, half of whom hold advanced degrees in cryptography, and is helping to organize the conference at the place of its founding, The Mathematical Institute (Mathematics Department of University of Oxford.)

PQCrypto as a conference series started in 2006 when very few people recognized the threat that the development of quantum computers can pose to communications security and information systems in general. Even fewer people studied methods of encryption that are resistant to quantum attacks. The research field has expanded enormously since those pioneering days, and PQCrypto remains a leading conference dedicated to this matter.

In 2024, the quantum threat is universally recognized and the transition to new quantum-safe encryption standards has already started. After a process lasting almost 8 years, the U.S. Government is finalizing new encryption standards that can be used to handle government-sensitive information. The same standards are expected to be also widely deployed for everyday civilian use, to protect websites, messaging apps, and banking transactions alike.

Security against quantum computing is on focus in the next SoC Hub chip

One especially complex transition involves the post-quantum modernization of the boot process, system integrity, and system updates in System-on-Chips, the so-called "Silicon Root of Trust" component. The algorithms also need to execute efficiently; hence new processor features are being designed to support them.

These are subject matters that are especially relevant to co-innovation project SoC Hub which Saarinen is participating in. Since 2020, the SoC Hub consortium, comprising Tampere University and seven companies, has co-developed and taped out three SoCs. The next chip which is now under development will have support for software autographs and certificates that are secure against quantum computing, and this is where Saarinen’s expertise comes in. He has designed this kind of a component, and it corresponds to the American FIPS 205 SLH-DSA standard that will be the requirement for System-on-Chips of higher security level in the future.

This spring, Saarinen will also be seen at ETSI/IQC Quantum Safe Cryptography Conference, organized 14–16 May at the National University of Singapore, where he will be giving a presentation on RISC-V PQC Instruction Set Extension Standardization.


Photo: Jonne Renvall