NSA Building Quantum Supercomputer To Crack Encrypted Data

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NSA Building Quantum Supercomputer To Crack Encrypted Data

NSA Logo

The NSA has spent almost $80 million trying to build a "a cryptologically useful quantum computer".

The National Security Agency has decided that traditional computers just aren't fast enough, and have been hard at work building a quantum "supercomputer" that should be able to crack codes at an exponentially faster rate. In documents handed to The Washington Post by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, it has been revealed that almost $80 million has been poured into the project so far, with no presentable results.

The research program is titled "Penetrating Hard Targets," with most of the work being hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park, Md. If the NSA were to suceed, all current forms of public key encryption would be broken, including those used on many secure Web sites as well as the type used to protect state secrets.

Quantum computing is a goal that the scientific community has long been striving for, as it would have revolutionary implications in multiple fields. Civilian scientists do not believe that the NSA is much further ahead of them with its research.

"It seems improbable that the NSA could be that far ahead of the open world without anybody knowing it," said Scott Aaronson, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Source: The Washington Post

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So phone hacking, bots and software flaws are not enough? Why can't the NSA do something usefull?

I think we can agree that using a puzzle in an attempt to solve a puzzle only results in... well, more people being puzzled.

One thing at a time, NSA. We haven't even fully created a quantum computer yet!

Evil Smurf:
So phone hacking, bots and software flaws are not enough? Why can't the NSA do something usefull?

What? Building a multibillion dollar super computer isn't useful? Think of the advancements we could make with that kind of processing power. Evolutionary and galactic modeling. Near-uncrackable encryption. The creation of a real AI. The overthrow of the human race by the machines. All possible thanks to the NSA...

In all seriousness, this is old news to anyone familiar with the US intelligence system. Using quantum computers for military codebreaking has been a major way to fund quantum computer research for years. I first heard about it reading an article in an MIT publication years ago.

Would love to see it backfire in a way that after sifting through information it becomes sentient and decides that it doesn't want to be a tool of spying on citizens and refuses to work. As long as it doesn't go the other way and decide humanity is worthless and attempts to kill us all.

amaranth_dru:
Would love to see it backfire in a way that after sifting through information it becomes sentient and decides that it doesn't want to be a tool of spying on citizens and refuses to work. As long as it doesn't go the other way and decide humanity is worthless and attempts to kill us all.

That's pretty much what I thought when I read the article. :D

Well, actually it was "they build fucking Skynet", but you get the idea.

The real reason for building it is obviously Dogecoin mining.

And if you leave it on all night with nothing to do, eventually it will return the answer "42!".

But in all seriousness, isn't proper decription and decoding of software something you leave to a keen human mind who has an eye for patterns and instincts that a computer will never have? You can only program the computer with the accrued knowledge you have so far, which is no guarantee against something new, is it?

FalloutJack:
And if you leave it on all night with nothing to do, eventually it will return the answer "42!".

But in all seriousness, isn't proper decription and decoding of software something you leave to a keen human mind who has an eye for patterns and instincts that a computer will never have? You can only program the computer with the accrued knowledge you have so far, which is no guarantee against something new, is it?

Nope. Computers have been better codebreakers than humans for many many years. Just look at the Enigma machines 70 years ago. Admittedly it still requires human input, but generally speaking a computer will be much better at decrypting information. If it wasn't, all the hacks of websites that hold our credit card details would be much more serious. If all it took was a really smart cryptographer to break a sites encryption, we'd have all had our banks jacked a dozen times over.

The research program is titled "Penetrating Hard Targets".

Between this and the "Octopus" satellite, it seems like people's browsing history has starting to take its toll on the NSA.

So, $80m dollars of tax-payers' money has gone into a highly fragile and expensive project that may or may not work, and has never showed any results whatsoever?

I'm so happy I don't live in America. Except for that one time where my gran brought me along to join the Westboro Baptist Church. Let's not talk about that.

Coakle:
The research program is titled "Penetrating Hard Targets".

Between this and the "Octopus" satellite, it seems like people's browsing history has starting to take its toll on the NSA.

This got more of a chuckle out of me than it probably should have lol

FalloutJack:
And if you leave it on all night with nothing to do, eventually it will return the answer "42!".

But in all seriousness, isn't proper decription and decoding of software something you leave to a keen human mind who has an eye for patterns and instincts that a computer will never have? You can only program the computer with the accrued knowledge you have so far, which is no guarantee against something new, is it?

Even if humans were better at decryption than computers (and we're not since most encryption these days is simply too complex for us to solve without the aid of computers. We're better at dreaming up new methods, but implementing them and cracking them is a machines job) quantum computers would be such a massive step forward in terms of processing power for this sort of application that they could simply brute force their way past pretty much any modern encryption in a matter of seconds or minutes where a standard computer would take years, or even centuries to do the same job.

If someone figures out how to make quantum computing work, modern encryption will be utterly useless.

Vivi22:

If someone figures out how to make quantum computing work, modern encryption will be utterly useless.

Well, this is interesting. A vote of confidence in favor of a machine that doesn't work yet. Since we're on the subject, how would you do it? I believe they should step into the next phase officially with DNA storage, which I heard to be many times greater in capacity than the most complex computers of this time. Or are we saying the problem is in programming the damn thing?

That logo looks so familiar, where have I seen it before, ah that's it:


Funny/sadly enough it actually fits the NSA :-/

Seriously America, clean your shit up this is getting bloody ridiculous. (The NSA not the logo)

The funny part is, any self-respecting foreign power will do anything possible to make another Quantum SuperComputer the moment the US builds one. And then it will be useless to use it for foreign counter-intelligence purposes.
So... take a good guess WHO will be the end targets. Hint. Look in the mirror.

Be careful that I am not talking about the efforts by the academical and research community where knowledge is open, challenged and shared. There quantum computers and quantum cryptography will give a significant boost to science. I am talking strictly for "cryptologically useful" purposes. Those 80 million dollars could be used for so much better purposes....

FalloutJack:

Vivi22:

If someone figures out how to make quantum computing work, modern encryption will be utterly useless.

Well, this is interesting.

Quantum computing being able to break encryption has been well known in Computer Science circles for at least a decade or two now. The benefit of quantum computing is that its a form of massively parallel processing, and that is exactly the thing that threatens current cryptography.

Its just a matter of waiting for practice to catch up to the theory.

On the other hand, as Tzzimy linked to above, once we have quantum computing working reliably then new methods of cryptography also become available.

Really all the article is saying is "The NSA has been doing the same thing everyone else has been doing, in the same manner, and getting the same results" aka "business as usual". This is good news, in the form of "no news is good news" and there being nothing particularly newsworthy here.

RicoADF:
That logo looks so familiar, where have I seen it before, ah that's it:


Funny/sadly enough it actually fits the NSA :-/

Seriously America, clean your shit up this is getting bloody ridiculous. (The NSA not the logo)

I take personal exception to this as someone whose family has been affected by fascism, and then fled to escape communism. I don't support what the NSA is doing, but the NSA isn't pulling people out of their homes and detaining them indefinitely and/or murdering them due to their race and/or political beliefs. You wanna make a heavy-handed point, I get it, but the two simply aren't comparable and I'd appreciate it if you didn't make your points on the backs of millions of murdered innocents.

Y'know, if the NSA is looking for shady cyber criminals who impinge on the freedoms and liberties of law abiding citizens then they don't need an $80 million computer, a $5 mirror would be better.

*sound of sirens*

Upon reflection I fully support the NSA in this matter. The security of the nation far outweighs the privacy of the individual ... hey, isn't that a little Communist?

*meaty thwack*

Ok, ok! God bless America!

hentropy:

I take personal exception to this as someone whose family has been affected by fascism, and then fled to escape communism. I don't support what the NSA is doing, but the NSA isn't pulling people out of their homes and detaining them indefinitely and/or murdering them due to their race and/or political beliefs. You wanna make a heavy-handed point, I get it, but the two simply aren't comparable and I'd appreciate it if you didn't make your points on the backs of millions of murdered innocents.

EDIT:
Scratch that, it'd take the topic way off course, I'll PM you my reply where we can discuss this if you'd like so we don't derail the thread.

Coakle:
The research program is titled "Penetrating Hard Targets".

Between this and the "Octopus" satellite, it seems like people's browsing history has starting to take its toll on the NSA.

Aww, that should have been my first thought too. Instead, my mind went here:

Oh, Quantum, holy Quantum... You who watch over our plots and provide us with miracles on a semiregular basis, bless this plan. I know this one is a doozy, but give us this blessing, and we'll celebrate with many tachyons in your name. Amen.

Am I the only one who is happy to see the NSA pissing away it's funding on what is (for now at least) a dead-end technology? I cheer for their incompetence, they have way too much power as is. But I do feel sorry for the American taxpayers at least, paying for these idiots while getting nothing from their government

The branch of the US government agency in charge of signals intelligence is working on quantum code cracking?

Don't be ridiculous. Next you'll be telling us that NASA is trying to send humans to Mars.

Anonymous and all kinds of rebellious elements have my blessing to take that thing out.

[This post has been flagged by the NSA, CIA, ASIS, M5,MSS]

So, they get 80 million in taxpayer money to build a "quantum supercomputer" and they call their project "Penetrating Hard Targets"?

Come on, NSA, now you're just fucking with us. Stop it, it's not funny anymore.

Let's hope the open world will build one before the damn NSA does.

Not sure if it even matters though...

I've always been scared of bathroom and bedroom and shower cameras and webcam hacking, but this is much worse. Thanks, internet!

And if you really trust them with this power, then you must have not seen any news within the last 2 years.

Tismo:
The real reason for building it is obviously Dogecoin mining.

Much wealth

So easy

Many spies

...

I feel bad for saying that now.

OT: Well obviously they need it in case we come across alien machine monsters. The NSA is just trying to save us from aliens guize. They saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture, they know what's up.

Vivi22:

If someone figures out how to make quantum computing work, modern encryption will be utterly useless.

Until that same degree of processing muscle is turned back towards creating advanced encryption on its own level.
Remember: Public encryption only had the government scared once personal computers became affordable for the average citizen back in the early 90s. I see no reason that couldn't happen again with quantum machines.

Caffiene:
[quote="FalloutJack" post="7.838532.20581214"][quote="Vivi22" post="7.838532.20581189"]
On the other hand, as Tzzimy linked to above, once we have quantum computing working reliably then new methods of cryptography also become available.

We actually already have quantum encryption algorithms. I'm not sure if they require a quantum computer to actually run the algorithm though.

If they are telling people about it now that means shit was already running for years, and they aren't the only ones who have them either.

Hell even Google has their own quantum computer, although theirs is set up for pattern matching.

So they are not "building" a quantum computer, they failed to do so.
Get your headlines straight.

Weaver:
We actually already have quantum encryption algorithms. I'm not sure if they require a quantum computer to actually run the algorithm though.

Yeah, the theory is certainly already there. Most of the quantum encryption ideas Im aware of make use of either the parallel processing aspect or things like particle spin as the methods of encryption, though, which would require the quantum computer before they can be implemented - afaik, its named quantum encryption because it is encrypted by quantum computer rather than because it is encrypted against quantum computing.

Good thing noone has managed to make quantum computers work, and not for the lack of trying. I remember in 2007 when we hit a single core wall everyone was screaming that quantum computers are the next step and current technology halted. well no, we just got better at it. Sure, someday quantum computers may be a reality. not today though. Though technically there is one, who can calculate 2+2 and not much else, but its a proof of concept.

As far as breaking encryption i think their better off investing into a supercomputer. If we have a computer that fits in your palm able to crack a 8 digit/letter passwords in under 30 minutes, we have computers that can crack harder ones in similar fashion. and that was last years codecracking show, or well, two years ago now since we are in 2014 now.

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