Report: NSA developing quantum computer that could crack most encryption
By End the Lie
The National Security Agency (NSA) is currently developing a quantum computer capable of cracking almost every type of encryption, according to documents provided to The Washignton Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
This comes after it was revealed that the NSA has backdoor access to the iPhone, places backdoors in electronics produced by companies like Cisco and Dell and intercepts electronics shipments to install surveillance software and hardware.
The latest report published by the Post on Thursday states that the agency’s question to build “a cryptologically useful quantum computer” is part of the $79.7 million “Penetrating Hard Targets” research program.
Most of the work is reportedly carried out under classified contracts at a lab in College Park, Maryland.
The quantum computer, a machine far more powerful than the fastest traditional computer, could be able to break “nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world,” according to the Post.
One major security company, however, was tied to the NSA with a $10 million contract, apparently part of an arrangement making it easier for the agency to crack their encryption.
Reports in September also stated that NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ crack encryption and covertly influence companies.
While the NSA is seeking to develop this code-cracking quantum computer, some say the agency is actually far from obtaining their goal.
“It seems improbable that the NSA could be that far ahead of the open world without anybody knowing it,” Scott Aaronson, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, said to the Post.
Indeed, the paper reports “the documents provided by Snowden suggest that the NSA is no closer to success than others in the scientific community.”
The agency has the goal of demonstrating “dynamical decoupling and complete quantum control on two semiconductor qubits” by the end of September, according to the documents.
For more info on how a quantum computer works and what a “qubit” is, see the below video:
“This will enable initial scaling towards large systems in related and follow-on efforts,” the document states.
Yet the agency is reportedly pouring tens of millions of dollars into developing a quantum computer capable of breaking even the most complex methods of encryption.
Another project, separate from “Penetrating Hard Targets,” called “Owning the Net,” is using quantum research to create new attacks on some of today’s most secure encryption methods.
“The irony of quantum computing is that if you can imagine someone building a quantum computer that can break encryption a few decades into the future, then you need to be worried right now,” said Daniel Lidar, professor of electrical engineering and the director of the Center for Quantum Information Science and Technology at the University of Southern California.
Apparently, the NSA is indeed worried right now.
“The application of quantum technologies to encryption algorithms threatens to dramatically impact the US government’s ability to both protect its communications and eavesdrop on the communications of foreign governments,” an internal NSA document provided by Snowden states.
Just how long it will be until this type of technology is a reality remains to be seen. University of Manchester professor Jeff Forshaw told the Guardian last year that it is “probably too soon to speculate on when the first full-scale quantum computer will be built but recent progress indicates that there is every reason to be optimistic.”
Seth Lloyd, professor of quantum mechanical engineering at MIT, told the Post that he thinks the type of quantum computer the NSA desires will take at least five years to develop.
Without a major breakthrough, it may take much longer, Lloyd told the Post in a recent interview.
D-Wave Systems said they have been making quantum computers since 2009 and reports state that they also sold machines to Lockheed Martin.
The NSA has remained silent on the matter, declining to comment for the Post and The Hill.
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