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Time to Prepare US National Security Systems (NSS) for Quantum Computing Risks

By IQT News posted 16 Nov 2020

(FederalNewsNetwork) The nation must address a significant future threat in the potential adversarial development and deployment of a quantum computer—a machine that extends the usual rules of computation via quantum physics. Such a deployment would potentially have grave impacts on the security of the United States and its citizens if the proper technical mitigations are not put in place.Imagine that an adversarial nation state deploys a quantum computer before the U.S. is prepared. Any system using current standards for public key cryptography would be vulnerable. The health of most systems would be imperiled and they would no longer be trusted to function properly and securely. Technology ranging from smart home appliances to sophisticated national security systems (NSS), which protect classified or other sensitive data, would be susceptible to attack, and the potential ripple effects could cross all sectors of life. The potential for grave health, economic and military harm to the nation is high if we do not prepare correctly.
The National Security Agency is responsible for protecting NSS against quantum computing risks. In 2015, NSA published guidance highlighting the need to prepare for the advent of a quantum computer, and encouraging the development of post-quantum cryptographic algorithms.
Now is the time to prepare—in four ways highlighted below:

  • Determine the potential issues their organizations and systems will likely face based on post-quantum algorithm performance characteristics;
  • Analyze the reliance their systems have on current public-key technology, and plan accordingly;
  • Maintain awareness of NSA guidance and policy (see below);
  • Reach out to NSA with questions, comments, or concerns regarding this significant algorithm transition process. NSA’s Cybersecurity Requirements Center can be reached via email.

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