Biden orders new quantum push to ensure ciphers are not cracked by rivals, Initiative aims to develop quantum-secure encryption algorithms


US President Joe Biden signed two directives this week aimed at ensuring that the US maintains its lead in quantum computing while protecting the country from future attacks using this new technology. The first directive is expected to advance quantum data processing, and the second is a memorandum designed to promote US leadership in quantum data processing while reducing risks to cryptographic systems. Experts believe that quantum computers could put encryption to the test in the coming years.

A global race is underway to leverage quantum information science (QIS) for economic and security purposes. The United States, France, China, the United Kingdom, etc. have made a growing and well-funded effort to realize practical applications of quantum computation and other QIS. The stakes are high, quantum computers are set to overcome several scientific challenges that are currently unsolvable on traditional computers. Applications within materials science, logistics, banking and healthcare, etc. is expected.

The first directive, signed by Biden on Wednesday, sets up a national advisory committee on the quantum initiative, consisting of up to 26 experts from industry, universities and federal laboratories, all appointed by the president and reporting to the White House. The committee is an improvement on the National Quantum Initiative Act – a 2018 law that provides $ 1.2 billion and a plan to promote quantum computing. In this way, President Biden, Congress, and federal chambers and agencies will receive the latest, most accurate, and most relevant information about the technology.

While the advent of fault-tolerant quantum computers is far off (the number of years is hotly debated in society), countries are also preparing for the negative effects that quantum technology may have on the current computer infrastructure. On Wednesday, Biden also signed a national security memorandum designed to address the risks posed by quantum computers to cybersecurity in the United States. The White House has said it is taking serious investigations into how quantum technology could break all encryption algorithms.

Research shows that at some point in the not too distant future, when quantum computers have reached a sufficient size and level of sophistication, they will be able to break much of the encryption that currently protects sensitive data from governments, companies and consumers, and encryption that secures our digital communications over the Internet, ”said the White House. The US National Security Agency (NSA) has also shared its views on the dangers of this burgeoning technology.

In a statement Wednesday, the agency’s director, Paul Nakasone, warned that a cryptographically relevant quantum computer could jeopardize civilian and military communications, as well as undermine critical infrastructure monitoring and control systems. The best defense against this quantum computational threat is to implement quantum-resistant encryption on our main systems. To this end, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will publish new quantum-resistant cryptographic standards.

This directive sets out a plan for updating IT infrastructure as the country adapts to quantum-resistant cryptographic standards. Tasks she envisages include things like NIST encryption standards, establishing requirements for compiling existing systems, and setting up workgroups in the public sector to promote collaboration. NIST, the NSA and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) all have work to do. According to the memo, the deadlines for performing these tasks are between 90 days and one year.

This latest decree comes at a time of global concern and uncertainty. The war in Ukraine, the post-pandemic economic downturn and the ongoing tensions in the supply chain, as well as the persistent political tensions between the US and China, are all factors that analysts say have raised concerns about the White House’s national security. The few practical uses of quantum computers as well as the emergence of other QIS applications (eg sensors) create a sense of urgency with QIS development in general.

Although none of the documents mentions China by name, the subtitle shows that these guidelines will allow the United States to compete with the central kingdom, which is investing heavily in quantum computers. In 2020, Chinese physicist Pan Jianwei claimed to have left the United States in the dust. He would have used a quantum system to perform in 200 seconds a calculation that the most powerful classical computers in the world would have considered for 10,000 years. Beijing has demanded several breakthroughs in quantum computation from its scientists by 2030.

The year 2030 was also mentioned in a research report by the US Congress as the beginning of the era where the current encryption will no longer be secure when attacked by quantum systems. Last November, the United States sanctioned 28 organizations involved in supporting foreign military uses of quantum computers. Twelve of these companies were Chinese.

The U.S. Department of Commerce said at the time that eight of those 12 Chinese companies had obtained their sanctions as part of efforts to stop U.S. technologies from finding their way into Middle Kingdom’s counterintelligence applications. , and their ability to aid Beijing’s cryptographic development.

These technological devices are based in China [Rpublique populaire de Chine] support the military modernization of the People’s Liberation Army or acquire and attempt to acquire US-made items in support of military applications. “Today’s action will also restrict exports to Chinese electronics manufacturers, who support the People’s Liberation Army’s military modernization efforts,” the minister said at the time.

In France, Emmanuel Macron’s government announced a year ago that it would invest 1.8 * billion euros over the next five years to accelerate progress in this area of ​​the future. This framework should be shared between research centers, start-ups and French industry groups. We must be among the first countries to master quantum technologies, said Emmanuel Macron during a trip to Paris-Saclay University in January 2021.

We must develop a hybrid computer for especially chemistry, logistics, AI, and this from the horizon 2023. With the large national intensive computer equipment and CEA, France will host the first hybrid quantum computer in the world, had – he adds. Although this investment is still very small compared to US and Chinese initiatives in the sector, it takes France from its current level of public spending allocated to quantum computers, which until now reached 60 million euros a year, to 200 million a year. static investment.

Sources: The White House, press release from the NSA

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