Key establishment is a crucial primitive for building secure channels: in a multi-party setting, it allows two parties using only public authenticated communication to establish a secret session key which can be used to encrypt messages. But if the session key is compromised, the confidentiality of encrypted messages is typically compromised as well. Without quantum mechanics, key establishment can only be done under the assumption that some computational problem is hard. Since digital communication can be easily eavesdropped and recorded, it is important to consider the secrecy of information anticipating future algorithmic and computational discoveries which could break the secrecy of past keys, violating the secrecy of the confidential channel.
Quantum key distribution (QKD) can be used generate secret keys that are secure against any future algorithmic or computational improvements. QKD protocols still require authentication of classical communication, however, which is most easily achieved using computationally secure digital signature schemes. It is generally considered folklore that QKD when used with computationally secure authentication is still secure against an unbounded adversary, provided the adversary did not break the authentication during the run of the protocol.
We describe a security model for quantum key distribution based on traditional classical authenticated key exchange (AKE) security models. Using our model, we characterize the long-term security of the BB84 QKD protocol with computationally secure authentication against an eventually unbounded adversary. By basing our model on traditional AKE models, we can more readily compare the relative merits of various forms of QKD and existing classical AKE protocols. This comparison illustrates in which types of adversarial environments different quantum and classical key agreement protocols can be secure.