The Washington Post is out with a doozy of a story for its latest Edward Snowden scoop. It says the NSA is trying to build a quantum computer that "could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world." The $80 million research program has a code name, of course: Penetrating Hard Targets. But how close the NSA actually is to building the thing is very much unclear; it would be a "revolutionary" leap forward in technology, and the story quotes experts speculating that such a breakthrough could be decades away.
The Post's explainer:
- "The basic principle underlying quantum computing is known as 'quantum superposition,' the idea that an object simultaneously exists in all states. A classical computer uses binary bits, which are either zeroes or ones. A quantum computer uses quantum bits, or qubits, which are simultaneously zero and one."
A quantum computer, then, is a "holy grail" of tech innovation, a machine that would have "exponentially more power" to crack encryptions than ordinary computers, writes Adam Clarke Estes at Gizmodo
. The thought of the NSA working on one for code-breaking purposes is "terrifying," he adds. "But it's hardly surprising." Such a machine would theoretically threaten "all security on the web," adds Gregory Ferenstein at TechCrunch
. But for the time being, this is "pretty theoretical." Click to read the full story in the Post
. Or to read about how the New York Times
and the Guardian
want the US to pardon Snowden
or give him amnesty.