(WallStreetJournal) The U.S. government utterly failed to detect, much less prevent, a stunning Russian cyber aggression. Sensitive agency and private networks were compromised. A strategic question looms: How can the U.S. attain reliable cybersecurity?
NOTE: This opinion piece authored by Mr. Gompert, an adviser to Ultratech Capital Partners and a visiting professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. He served as acting director of national intelligence in 2010.
The U.S. has at last come to see that retaliating in kind could deter Russian cyberattacks. But if deterrence fails, escalation will be perilous. How, then, can we secure cyberspace against mounting threats? With existing technology, we probably can’t.
A solution may lie in quantum technology. Although practical quantum computers are years away, digital computers can be networked with secure quantum links. This offers the prospect of an unhackable quantum internet grafted onto today’s digital internet with secure links. This wouldn’t require overhauling internet infrastructure, and the cost would be borne mainly by users who seek security.
For now, the range of secure quantum communication falls short of the hundreds or more miles across which most networks are expected to work, though in December U.S. and Canadian scientists sent qubits across 27 miles of fiber-optic cable.
Quantum communication is no panacea. Even if network links are secured, other vulnerabilities will persist, such as poor access controls, malware-laden computers, and supply-chain interference. The day will also come when quantum computing makes encryption easier to break. But that would make quantum communication all the more crucial to safeguard encryption.
The Biden administration should declare that the U.S. intends to achieve cybersecurity with a quantum internet. To make this happen, it should double spending on quantum research from $1 billion to $2 billion annually, demolish barriers to defense work for private quantum firms, assign agencies and departments to plan for quantum, and urge the North Atlantic Treaty Organizaiton to pursue collaboration with an eye to the Russian threat.