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Pentagon’s outgoing data boss warns of quantum cyber threats

By Sandra Helsel posted 08 Apr 2022

(Bloomberg)  , who has an impressive lineup of cybersecurity articles, interviewed David Spirk, the U.S. Department of Defense’s outgoing chief data officer called for the Pentagon to make urgent investments to defend against potential espionage from quantum computers. Inside Quantum Technology summarizes below.

David Spirk, who spent two years in his role, told Bloomberg News that the Pentagon needs to speed up efforts to counter adversaries who are developing military tools supported by advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and eventually quantum science.
“I don’t think that there’s enough senior leaders getting their heads around the implications of quantum,” Spirk said. “Like AI, I think that’s a new wave of compute that when it arrives is going to be a pretty shocking moment to industry and government alike. We have to pick up pace because we have competitors who are also attempting to accelerate,” he added.

The National Security Agency, meanwhile, said last year that the adversarial use of a quantum computer “could be devastating” to the U.S. and its national security systems. The NSA said it could take 20 years or more to roll out new post-quantum cryptography that would resist such code-cracking.

Tim Gorman, a spokesperson at the Pentagon, said the Department of Defense was taking post-quantum cryptography seriously and coordinating with Congress and across government agencies. He added there was “a significant effort” underway.A January presidential memo further charged agencies with establishing a timeline for transitioning to quantum resistant cryptography.

Spirk said the Pentagon needs to start preparing “now,” arguing military applications for quantum computing could be only five to 10 years away. The Pentagon needed to work at the same speed as commercial vendors that are already exploring ways to use quantum-resistant cryptography to safeguard financial and health-care sectors, he said.
Spirk, a former U.S. Marine, became the first chief data officer at Special Operations Command before he joined the Pentagon. He said he left the chief data officer post after a two-year commitment to rejoin his family in Florida. The departure follows last year’s resignation of the U.S. Air Force’s first chief software officer, Nicolas Chaillan, who previously told the Financial Times that the U.S. was losing the AI race to China.

Sandra K. Helsel, Ph.D. has been researching and reporting on frontier technologies since 1990.  She has her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.

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