Friday, March 22, 2024

"U.S. and China race to shield secrets from quantum computers"

 A Reuters Special Report, December 14, 2023:

The encryption guarding digital communications could someday be cracked by quantum computers. Dubbed 'Q-day,' that moment could upend military and economic security worldwide. Great powers are sprinting to get there first.

In February, a Canadian cybersecurity firm delivered an ominous forecast to the U.S. Department of Defense. America’s secrets – actually, everybody’s secrets – are now at risk of exposure, warned the team from Quantum Defen5e (QD5).

QD5’s executive vice president, Tilo Kunz, told officials from the Defense Information Systems Agency that possibly as soon as 2025, the world would arrive at what has been dubbed “Q-day,” the day when quantum computers make current encryption methods useless. Machines vastly more powerful than today’s fastest supercomputers would be capable of cracking the codes that protect virtually all modern communication, he told the agency, which is tasked with safeguarding the U.S. military’s communications.

In the meantime, Kunz told the panel, a global effort to plunder data is underway so that intercepted messages can be decoded after Q-day in what he described as “harvest now, decrypt later” attacks, according to a recording of the session the agency later made public.

Militaries would see their long-term plans and intelligence gathering exposed to enemies. Businesses could have their intellectual property swiped. People’s health records would be laid bare.

“We are not the only ones who are harvesting, we are not the only ones hoping to decrypt that in the future,” Kunz said, without naming names. “Everything that gets sent over public networks is at risk.”

Kunz is among a growing chorus sounding this alarm. Many cyber experts believe all the major powers are collecting ahead of Q-day. The United States and China, the world’s leading military powers, are accusing each other of data harvesting on a grand scale.

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray, said in September that China had “a bigger hacking program than every other major nation combined.” In a September report, China’s chief civilian intelligence agency, the Ministry of State Security, accused the U.S. National Security Agency of “systematic” attacks to steal Chinese data.

The National Security Agency declined to comment on China's accusation.

More is at stake than cracking codes. Quantum computers, which harness the mysterious properties of subatomic particles, promise to deliver breakthroughs in science, armaments and industry, researchers say. (See related story.)....