US should take steps for day when adversaries have quantum computing-enabled decryption
(NationalDefenseMagazine) The ability to encrypt information is an essential part of military command and control, just as breaking military codes has been a decisive factor in modern warfare. With that in mind, the United States should take steps now to prepare for a day when adversaries could have quantum computing-enabled decryption capabilities.
Quantum computing is not just faster than traditional computing methods, but a fundamentally different approach to solve seemingly intractable problems. The mathematical operations that most traditional cryptographic algorithms rely on could be cracked with a sufficiently strong quantum computer.
With the potential that quantum could have on the international economy, it is no surprise that billions of dollars are being invested to fund research in this emerging technology area. In the United States, efforts are being led by academia, government labs and technology companies across the industrial base.
However, China is investing heavily and is close behind. President Xi Jinping’s government has spent more than $10 billion to set up the National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, and at the current rate will spend more on quantum research than any other nation by 2030.
Given the pace of advancement and magnitude of investments by peer competitors, we should not wait to implement quantum-resistant algorithms on our security networks. There are steps we can take now to guard against future quantum computational capabilities, including the implementation of post-quantum cryptography algorithms that are secure against both classical and quantum computers.
In 2015, the National Security Agency announced plans to transition to a quantum-resistant cipher suite and encouraged partners and vendors to do the same. The National Institute of Standards and Technology established the Post-Quantum Cryptography Standardization program and competition in 2016, to upgrade public key encryption to a quantum-proof model.
It would be difficult to predict when, or even if, quantum computing will provide our adversaries, or even bad actors, with the ability to creak previously unbreakable codes. But regardless of the timeline for that threat, we can take steps today that will significantly reduce the potential risks posed by that future capability.