NSA is working on quantum computer to crack any and all encryption, according to report

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According to the Washington Post, it seems that the US government — the National Security Agency (NSA) in particular — is working on a quantum computer which would be able to crack all the encryption that the public uses.

This is part of a project known as “Penetrating Hard Targets”. So far, $79.7 million has been spent on it, and in documents that Edward Snowden has leaked, it is shown that the government’s efforts to create a quantum computer are being done in “large, shielded rooms known as Faraday cages, which are designed to prevent electromagnetic energy from coming in or out” and these rooms are being used “to keep delicate quantum computing experiments running.”

Luckily, according to the documents, it seems that the government isn’t close to completing a quantum computer, though it is doubtful they will stop trying, and they don’t exactly give out regular updates on this subject either.

If they ever do get one working though, the idea to “encrypt everything ” on the internet that has been pushed around by Eric Schmidt, who is Google’s executive chairman, may not be enough to ensure privacy because a quantum computer would, theoretically, be able to easily crack any and all encryption.

[via The Next Web]

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4 comments

  1. Louis

    There’s a couple of problems with this whole unrealistic expectation of quantum computing :

    1) It doesn’t actually exist, other than in extremely theoretical form, and since ‘uncertainty’ lies at it’s core, it’s thus quite uncertain whether it is even possible.

    2) As noted by Godel, it won’t be of much use against symmetric encryption — even if such a workable prototype could be built, it won’t break the algorythms itself, but theoretically bruteforce crack keys of a length currently impossible to crack (assuming proper entropy in the key composition) — even qubits aren’t unlimited in their scope, so by simply dramatically extending the length of proper keys, it will probably make even a quantum computer useless.

    3) It may not even take that much of a countermeasure, a simple little symmetric encryption program like dsCrypt utilising a virtual keyboard with a large variety of non-US keyboard & non-language symbols will likely defeat it as well.

    4) Even if that were not the case, and assuming the worst – that against all odds symmetric encryption, including the above example, isn’t safe, there is of course one kind of encryption that is completely unbreakable, regardless of technology, or time, and that of course is the “one-time pad” system.

    5) For that reason alone, wasting the US taxpayers’ money, or impoverishing them further by having the Fed ‘printing’ more money just to finance this wild-goose chase (and put trillions of dollars more into the pockets of the military-industrial Corporations at the expense of the US public), is simply ludicrous.

    6) Last but not least, I honestly doubt that the NSA will be the first in that race, should it even be possible. And if it is, the probability that the NSA would end up the only entity with such a computing power is virtually zero. Hence : If the whole world ends up having it (which it will, if that tech is viable), who will protect the NSA’s secrets ?

  2. New Moon

    “The creator is the destroyer” in most cases. Are they not getting any diminishing return by spending lots of money and half of the country spying on the other half? Maybe they are, thus this quantum computer approach is the double down approach, a systemic failure perhaps. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a creepy society where my emails are read my phone calls are listened to. They should really turn most resources to creating jobs for the people and enhance social and medical care for them. Just a decent thought.

  3. Bub

    Quantum computers are interesting for a lot of reasons other than just making current encryption techniques obsolete. However, as anybody who has been following the research knows, progress has been painfully slow and incremental.

  4. Godel

    A quantum computer could only crack the RSA style public encryption.

    Unfortunately, that is used most commonly to transmit the asymmetric session keys which the NSA otherwise wouldn’t be able to decode. So with the Feds storing years of past communications, all your past messages may be at risk, if you’re using public key protocols.

    Lesson: if you need to communicate anything important use symmetric encryption with the keys transmitted by other means.