U.S. Prepares for The Threatening Arrival of Quantum Computers

Joe Biden signed on May 4 a memorandum on national security devoted to quantum computing. Beyond the American aspirations to dominate this promising technological field, the text reflects the concern of the United States that a computer capable of breaking all current cryptographic systems will emerge.

The vulnerability of American cryptography to the prospects of quantum computing

With this text the American president aims at ” stimulate innovation throughout the U.S. economy, from energy to medicine, through advances in computing, networking, and sensing “. He hammers home the point that the United States must maintain its leadership in ” quantum computing science “by promoting cooperations between the public sector, private companies and research.

It is, however, the security of American computer systems that occupies a prominent place in the memorandum. In a press release issued at the same time, the director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Paul Nakasone, explains that a ” cryptographically relevant quantum computer could jeopardize civilian and military communications, as well as critical infrastructure monitoring and control systems “.

A perspective ” not so far away ” to believe it ” current research “according to the words of a senior American official relayed by The Record. The American cryptographic systems work according to principles established at the end of the 70’s and constantly updated since.

The prospects of quantum computing could call into question the effectiveness of these cryptographic systems. To anticipate this risk, which is expected by 2030 according to a report submitted to the US Congress and relayed by The Register the Biden administration is taking a number of steps.

Within 90 days to a year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) must issue new cryptographic standards to safeguard U.S. systems from this danger. NIST, NSA, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) will each have a number of assignments to upgrade U.S. cryptography.

An international technology race

The same day Joe Biden signed a executive order to create an Advisory Committee on the National Quantum Initiative. Composed of representatives of the administration and 26 experts from industry, universities and federal laboratories, it will have the task of informing the general public and Washington, to provide analysis, advice, think about applications of quantum.

This executive order builds on Donald Trump’s National Quantum Initiative Act of 2018. A $1.2 billion plan ($1.1 billion) to advance quantum technologies in the United States. Uncle Sam’s country is engaged in a race for supremacy in this strategic sector with China. Researchers from the Middle Kingdom do not cease to claim new progress in the sector.

In france, Emmanuel Macron has posted in 2021 the ambition to make france the third major quantum country alongside the American and Chinese giants. The President of the Republic has set up a roadmap for the next five years to develop quantum technologies. 1.8 billion dollars have been dedicated to this project. The race is on.


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