The National Security Agency wants to build a futuristic super computer that can break most types of encryption, according to documents obtained from Edward Snowden by the Washington Post. No reason to worry yet, however, as the Agency is not even close to figuring out how to build the space-age technology necessary to crack most security procedures.
According to the documents, the computer project is part of a $79.7 million research program, “Penetrating Hard Targets”, suspected to be under classified contracts in a lab in College Park, Maryland.
Encryption, has, since at least the Ancient Greeks, been a method of scrambling information with the noise of arbitrary character strings; only someone with a rubric could determine what is the noise and what is the message. The more noise, or bits, the more difficult it is to crack the code by trial and error. A 1,024-bit encryption could take years (or much longer) to decode.
Quantum mechanics exploits the rather unintuitive concept that matter can exist in multiple states. Quantum computers could calculate problems where bits are both a 1 and 0, or multiple 1s and 0s, potentially increasing the speed of calculations exponentially.
Potentially then, the NSA could build a computer that could decode the most advanced encryption much faster.
Generally speaking, allowing even one organization to have the capability to break encryption is potentially threatening to all security on the web. Though, advances in quantum computing could also have benefits to science and health. So, at this point, the benefits and harms are pretty theoretical.
Either way, according to The Washington Post, such computers are extremely fragile and the NSA is close to only a few of the basic building blocks. “That’s a great step, but it’s a pretty small step on the road to building a large-scale quantum computer,” explained MIT mechanical engineer, Lloyd Seth.
This is why the NSA is also pressuring and paying security experts to create backdoors and exploits.
Read The Post’s full story here.