It may not come as a complete surprise, what given the last year of Edward Snowden revelations, that the NSA loves data and has access to a tremendous amount of it. But, in the latest Snowden mic drop, it turns out a tremendous amount of data is not enough to quench the NSA’s thirst. The Washington Post reports on Monday, courtesy of Snowden, that the NSA is basically going after everything.
In room-size metal boxes, secure against electromagnetic leaks, the National Security Agency is racing to build a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world. According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the effort to build “a cryptologically useful quantum computer” — a machine exponentially faster than classical computers — is part of a $79.7 million research program titled, “Penetrating Hard Targets.” Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park…With such technology, all forms of public key encryption would be broken, including those used on many secure Web sites as well as the type used to protect state secrets.
It’s unclear how much progress the NSA has made on creating a quantum computer, but the Post points out the agency is not alone in developing the technology and the NSA sees the European Union and Switzerland as active competitors. Experts also predict that the actual finished product could still be years off. But, how does quantum computing actually work? Like this, “in theory,” according to the Post: “While a classical computer, however fast, must do one calculation at a time, a quantum computer can sometimes avoid having to make calculations that are unnecessary to solving a problem. That allows it to home in on the correct answer much more quickly and efficiently.”