News / USA

NSA Building Quantum Supercomputer

An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.
An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.
VOA News
Quantum computers that can perform vast numbers of calculations simultaneously may be closer to science fiction than reality, but previously unpublished documents indicate the secretive U.S. National Security Agency is working hard to build a real quantum supercomputer, powerful enough to decode virtually every form of encryption now known.

Such a computer, many times faster than today’s fastest machines, could easily solve codes now considered "unbreakable" - the type of ciphers currently used worldwide by scientific and financial institutions and governments to protect their data.

The basic principle of quantum computing is a physical phenomenon that is not yet fully understood: certain subatomic particles can simultaneously exist in two different states. A conventional computer works with binary "bits" of information that are represented as either zero or one; quantum bits could be both zero and one simultaneously.

In theory, that quirk of physics will allow quantum computers to skip through much of the elaborate mathematical computations necessary to solve complex encryption keys.

Documents made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show the code-breaking agency is spending nearly $80 million on a secret research program called "Penetrating Hard Targets."
NSA would not comment on this week's disclosures by Snowden, who has been living in asylum in Russia since last year, after exposing secret U.S. diplomatic cables and worldwide surveillance activities.
The U.S. government is said to be competing against quantum-computer research efforts by the European Union and Switzerlands, but experts in the field say practical exploitation of such systems is years if not decades in the future.

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Comment Sorting
by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
January 06, 2014 9:43 PM
The NSA is getting ready for tracking computer hackers, data security of the government and banks, and cyber warfare. I hope the US develop the quantum computer alone without any outside assistance for security reasons. Is the quantum computer capable of automatic sending of stealth drones to incapacitate the computers of the hackers?

by: Mike from: USA
January 04, 2014 2:23 PM
Thank You National Security Agency. The realization of Quantum computing has been on my radar for a few years now. Congrats. What I am thanking you for is that you, not the Fed, will be the one that puts an end to this crypto currency nonsense from both a purely economic and cybersecurity standpoint. 1) I trust the NSA to be the first to have quantum. If it were anyone else besides them, that would be scary. 2) The onset of Quantum computations flipping the petaflops produced by the power used to try to dig the hash rate will cause a scare devaluation then runaway inflation versus what it can be bought for. NSA 1 MIT 0

by: Gerry
January 04, 2014 2:16 PM
Progress yes but it can never replace people, whose vigilance and dedication is paramount to the USA.

by: Matt from: London
January 04, 2014 7:56 AM
Can it run Assassins Creed IV?

by: Pantelis Roussakis
January 03, 2014 2:43 PM
Essentially a Quantum computer will have the ability to ponder multiple inane conversations on Facebook simultaneously. Yet the big questions remain, will it give the NSA the ability to predict what might happen (ala Minority Report)? Can it resurrect Schrödinger's cat and will the NSA use it for Bitcoin mining?

by: Wushu Tene from: Antartica
January 03, 2014 1:53 PM
Its already build

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