We expect that the NSA has high level hackers working for them, helping them gain access to a variety of secured networks, but we have also heard reports of how the NSA has allegedly paid off security companies to make their encryption less powerful, ultimately giving the NSA easier access to them.
Well it seems that the NSA might no longer have to resort to paying off security companies because according to the latest documents leaked by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, it seems as though the NSA has been hard at work trying to build a “cryptologically useful quantum computer” that is capable of breaking nearly every kind of encryption used by banks, businesses, and governments around the world.
It is unclear how long the NSA has been at work on this quantum computer, but it is apparently part of a $79.7 million project called “Penetrating Hard Targets”, with most of the work taking place in a laboratory in College Park. A quantum computer would be immensely useful not just for code-breaking, but for fields such as science and medicine, which has prompted those working in public labs if the NSA could be closer to building such a machine than they are.
According to Scott Aaronson, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, “It seems improbable that the NSA could be that far ahead of the open world without anybody knowing it.” However it seems that the NSA believes that they are on par with quantum computing labs sponsored by the EU and the Swiss government, although prospects of a breakthrough aren’t quite there yet.
In a quote that best sums it up was given by Daniel Lidar, who is a professor of electrical engineering and also the director of the Center for Quantum Information Science and Technology at the University of Southern California. “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.”