NSA pursues quantum technology

January 31, 2014, Institute of Physics

In this month's issue of Physics World, Jon Cartwright explains how the revelation that the US National Security Agency (NSA) is developing quantum computers has renewed interest and sparked debate on just how far ahead they are of the world's major labs looking to develop the same technology.

In 2006 the NSA openly announced a partnership with two US institutions to develop quantum computers. However, according to documents leaked by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, and published last month by the Washington Post, the NSA also wishes to develop the technology so that it is capable of breaking modern Internet security.

The $79.7m project, dubbed "Penetrating Hard Targets", could be made possible by the extraordinary potential of quantum computers to factorize large numbers in a short space of time, quickly deciphering encryption keys that are used to protect sensitive information.

For the NSA, this could mean deciphering banking transactions, private messages and government files; however, many physicists are not surprised and believe this is exactly the type of technology that the NSA is expected to develop.

Speaking to Physics World, Raymond Laflamme, a leading quantum information theorist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said "If you put my level of surprise on a scale from zero to 10, where 10 is very, very surprised, my answer would be zero."

For many other physicists the news has confirmed the need to stay ahead of the game and develop more sophisticated encryption techniques, some of which also take advantage of quantum phenomena.

Quantum key distribution (QKD) is one such technique, which guarantees the security of an encryption key based on fundamental aspects of quantum mechanics, whereby the process of trying to measure or access an encryption key made from various quantum states will automatically destroy it.

The latest leaked documents, however, also reveal that the NSA is attempting to exploit practical loops in QKD under a programme known as "Owning the Net".

Cartwright concludes that quantum computers are still expected to be many years away, with the control of qubits – the packets of information that quantum computers would process – a major sticking point for physicists; however, the extent to which the NSA has developed the technology remains largely unknown.

Also in this issue of Physics World, and online today, 31 January, Matin Durrani, editor of the magazine, provides further details of the UK's £270m investment into quantum technology that was announced by the chancellor George Osborne in last year's Autumn Statement.

The initiative, which will begin in 2015, will focus on areas such as chip-scale atomic clocks for improved GPS communication, quantum-enabled sensors, quantum communication and , while some £4m will go on equipment for the new Advanced Metrology Laboratory being built at the National Physical Laboratory.

The quantum-physics initiative, which has involved careful behind-the-scenes negotiations between the UK physics community, government and industry, was formally put to Osborne last year by a group of physicists led by Professor Sir Peter Knight from Imperial College London.

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Kimmo Rouvari
1 / 5 (1) Jan 31, 2014
That ain't gonna happen... http://www.toebi....ters-bs/
Jan 31, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 31, 2014
The most important tool in the world of espionage is, has always been, and will always be, misinformation. Keep the competition guessing.
Jan 31, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Feb 01, 2014
Thanks for the resource link....
1 / 5 (1) Feb 02, 2014
Amazing how it's always the NSA being blamed. Seems GCHQ are better at damage control.

Keep in mind, that if GCHQ hadn't broken the ENIGMA code used in WWII, then the outcome would have been very different. Breaking codes is useful for national security. Get used to it!!
Turin would have agreed with me!!
5 / 5 (1) Feb 04, 2014
Amazing how it's always the NSA being blamed. Seems GCHQ are better at damage control.

Keep in mind, that if GCHQ hadn't broken the ENIGMA code used in WWII, then the outcome would have been very different. Breaking codes is useful for national security. Get used to it!!
Turin would have agreed with me!!

1) It's Turing.
2) Your dramatic over-simplification of the situation surrounding the Enigma code kinda disqualifies you from sensible discussion.
3) Even if you weren't disqualified - the fact that good came from the breaking of a code doesn't mean all signals espionage is automatically good.
not rated yet Feb 04, 2014
@ThomasQuinn: Sorry about the typo on Turing. However it's good to see you knew who I was talking about.

Not sure how your point 2 is valid. I made a valid, succinct point. What is your argument exactly?

Regarding point 3, sure there is always bad in any technology, but intercepting threats before they happen is worth more than your unqualified point 2!
Also keep in mind, that the NSA may well speed up computing with their desire to break codes, as Turing did in WWII. Do you understand my point yet?
1 / 5 (1) Feb 04, 2014
USA is dying now that their attack on world's greatest democracy Libya has blown back with the establishment of an African global trading block and the establishment of the dinar backed by gold. USA has hit limit stealing oil fields and bailing out bankster buddies while destroying the value of labor and wages. USD is being systematically eliminated from world trade and dollars will flood back to USA, drowning them in worthless paper while they launch wars that will leave them exposed to economic raping by the new world trillionaires

Like the fall of Berlin Wall Americans will be trapped in their ignorance while real news sources document the implosion of America into a permanent third world backwater. USA will be carved up like a turkey, but unlike the pilgrims Americans today will be the natives left to starve and have their land stolen!

NSA cronies will find new employment hacking for China and Iran and Syria, just as KGB found employment driving Americans around Moscow in 90s
5 / 5 (1) Feb 05, 2014

Not sure how your point 2 is valid. I made a valid, succinct point. What is your argument exactly?

Very simple: the Enigma-code was cracked because Polish intelligence had obtained physical lists of daily coding-keys in the early '30s, which they shared with British intelligence in 1939. This revealed the method of coding, though not the actual code. Using this knowledge, the Enigma code was cracked in cases where daily codes were re-used (which was contrary to coding procedure). Messages encrypted according to protocol could only be decoded after an intact Enigma-machine was captured, i.e. it was cracked by physical intelligence gathering rather than signals intelligence.

That is what I meant by over-simplified.

As for my third point: I was simply pointing out that you engaged in a logical fallacy, namely the assumption that anecdotal evidence of positive results proves that the methodology is good. Not saying you're wrong, just that your argument doesn't prove you're right
1 / 5 (1) Feb 06, 2014
NSA surveillance reflects the increasing US paranoia given that their gold vaults are empty, and now countries are demanding their gold to be returned.

Now, after all these years, Poland wants its gold back.

The message: Even governments no longer trust the global, fiat monetary system. Only stupid brainwashed American goyum continue to believe

Germany, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico, Romania and Poland want their gold locked in US and UK returned. They heard ugly rumors about the Rothschilds banksters installing a secret back door to Fort Knox and other vaults as well as the vaults being emptied in a mass sale to China which mysteriously acquired 8 tonnes of gold last year

How many downvotes must ThomasQuinn make on the Internet to stymie the USA implosion?
1 / 5 (1) Feb 06, 2014
8000 tonnes my bad
not rated yet Feb 08, 2014
I really don't need to downvote an anti-Semitic nutjob to discredit the notions he spreads. Your insanity is completely obvious from a simple glance at your posts. Plus, you have no sense of perspective even if your bizarre claims are true. The Rothchild-crap: utter bullshit stemming straight from 100-year-old anti-Semitic propaganda, same as the spurious Rothchild-Disraeli anecdote, 8000 tonnes of gold: sounds like a lot, but really isn't. It's less than 5% of the gold reserves held in the US.

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