The National Institute of Standards and Technology is requesting the public's help to replace cryptographic standards and guidelines that could be vulnerable to an emerging threat.

Practical quantum computers, though yet to be built, have the potential to break encryption algorithms in digital systems. "The Call for Proposals for Post-Quantum Cryptography Standardization," announced Dec. 20 in the Federal Register, solicits methods and strategies from the world's cryptographers to replace protections for digital systems, concentrating on public key cryptography.

FIPS 186-4, NIST SP 800-56A and NIST SP 800-56B are standards dealing with encryption, key establishment and digital signatures, and NIST is asking cryptographers to send proposed updates to susceptible algorithms by Nov. 30, 2017.

NIST will then review the submissions and invite those meeting certain requirements to participate in an open workshop in 2018. An evaluation phase will then follow, narrowing the candidate pool multiple times during an estimated three- to five-year period.

Complete instructions on submission and acceptability requirements for an algorithm can be found at