UT researcher awarded significant grant for e-Estonia

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Dominique Unruh, a cryptography professor at the University of Tartu, has been awarded a 1.7 million euro grant by the European Research Council (ERC). The grant also contributes significantly to Estonia's public e-services and cyber security. Professor Unruh will develop a solution to protect future IT services from powerful quantum computers.

Estonia's existing e-services are totally safe and hack-proof. However, they use cryptographic systems that are not sufficiently protected against the powerful quantum computers of the near future. Within a few years, quantum computers could pose a real danger to cyber safety. This will affect everything from ID card authentication to legally binding documents and electronic elections.

Dominique Unruh, a cryptography professor at the University of Tartu, received a prominent ERC research grant for developing a computerised method to mathematically verify new crypto-protocols.

“A lot of new cryptographic building blocks have been developed internationally to help security systems hold out against the computing power of quantum computers,” he explained. “Our project creates a foundation for guaranteeing the safety and reliability of future e-services."

Replacing crypto-systems takes years. Although quantum computers do not yet exist, quantum cryptography is starting to be implemented so as to prevent future dangers. "The technologically more simplistic quantum devices that have been on the market for years are enough for developing a lot of cryptographic protocols,” Unruh added. “If we can't create safe systems to counter the computing power of quantum computers now, it'll be too late in the future."

Professor Unruh's research is vitally important to e-Estonia and a huge leap forward for the IT field. "This is the first IT grant of such prestige in Estonia and great recognition of how effective our work has been so far,” said Jaak Vilo, the head of UT's Institute of Computer Sciences. “On behalf of the IT centre of excellence EXCITE, we would like to say we’re very proud of our colleague's achievement."

Dominique Peer Ghislain Unruh is a cryptography professor at the Institute of Computer Science of the University of Tartu and the head of the Chair of Security and Theoretical Computer Science. He obtained his Master's and Doctoral degrees from Karlsruhe University in Germany and completed his post-doctoral studies at Saarland University. He has been working at the University of Tartu since 2011.

The European Research Council (ERC) funds research and innovative new projects on the frontiers of science. ERC grants are some of the most renowned among European researchers.

More information:
Jaak Vilo, Head of UT Institute of Computer Science, +372 50 49 365, jaak.vilo@ut.ee
Mattias Jõesaar, Marketing and Communication Specialist, UT Institute of Computer Science, +372 51 36 709, mattias.joesaar@ut.ee