NSA Trying To Build A Quantum Computer To Crack Lots Of Encryption, But Not Having Much Luck Yet
from the so,-like-everyone-else,-then dept
The latest Washington Post article concerning documents revealed by Ed Snowden doesn't really reveal all that much, other than the unsurprising news that the NSA is trying to build a quantum computer that could help it break lots of forms of encryption (though, not all). But, the key point here is that the NSA really doesn't seem to have gotten any further than anyone else in this endeavor.
Physicists and computer scientists have long speculated whether the NSA’s efforts are more advanced than those of the best civilian labs. Although the full extent of the agency’s research remains unknown, the documents provided by Snowden suggest that the NSA is no closer to success than others in the scientific community.Of the various leaks so far, this one definitely falls into the category of... not that big of a deal. You'd pretty much expect the NSA to be working on a project like this, and while it may employ lots of very smart folks, it would be pretty difficult for the NSA to be particularly far ahead of anyone else on a big challenge like this one. Yes, one day there will be quantum computers, and that will be a concern for certain forms of encryption. So it's certainly worth contemplating what to do when that happens, but, for now, it doesn't appear the NSA has some special sauce there, even if its big malware program is called QUANTUM.
“It seems improbable that the NSA could be that far ahead of the open world without anybody knowing it,” said Scott Aaronson, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT.
The NSA appears to regard itself as running neck and neck with quantum computing labs sponsored by the European Union and the Swiss government, with steady progress but little prospect of an immediate breakthrough.
“The geographic scope has narrowed from a global effort to a discrete focus on the European Union and Switzerland,” one NSA document states.