Print 33 comment(s) - last by ZorkZork.. on Jan 6 at 3:46 PM

It's reportedly far from finished, but remains a concern

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is now well-known for its far-reaching spying capabilities thanks to former agency contractor Edward Snowden, and new documents prove the NSA's commitment to surveillance more than ever with the construction of a quantum computer.

According to The Washington Post, the NSA is in the midst of building a quantum computer capable of breaking into most types of encryption. The computer is part of a $79.7 million research program called “Penetrating Hard Targets.”

Quantum computers are different from traditional computers that we use everyday in that quantum versions use quantum bits (aka "qubits") that simultaneously use zero and one. Traditional computers use binary bits, where either zero or one is used, but never at the same time. Traditional computers calculate one task at a time, where quantum computers are capable of skipping certain calculations in order to solve a problem, meaning it can reach conclusions faster. 

For the NSA's purposes, a quantum computer would be able to crack an encryption key much more quickly than traditional computers. The standard encryption tool today is called RSA, where the product of two large prime numbers need to be factored. Finding these two numbers cracks the key, and in 2009, it took hundreds of traditional computers nearly two years to crack a 768-bit number. Typically, 1024-bit encryption keys are used for online banking, medical, government and business records, which could take 1,000 times longer to crack. 

This is where quantum computers come in. They would be able to figure out encryption codes much faster, allowing the NSA access to any information they'd like. Further, the NSA is building the quantum computer in a faraday cage, which prevents electromagnetic energy from coming in or out. 

But the article says that the NSA isn't exactly close to having the quantum computer built. The main issue with these types of computers is that they're fragile, and they need to be kept isolated from outside environments -- or else their computations are useless. 

It's also difficult to build a quantum computer with enough qubits. The report noted that the NSA would need hundreds or even thousands more qubits than it currently has to have a working quantum computer. 


Sources in The Washington Post article noted that the NSA can't possibly be much further ahead than civilian computer labs in universities around the U.S., which have already built small-scale quantum computers. 

Snowden blew the cover on the NSA's surveillance programs earlier last year, which consisted of bulk data collection from sources like phone records, where the government took on a "collect now, filter later" approach. The agency has said that the bulk data collection was meant to identify terrorist threats, but it's been discovered that the data of Americans has been collected without any clear evidence of terrorist links. 

A presidential review panel made 46 recommendations regarding greater restraint on the NSA's surveillance programs last week, which will have to be accepted by President Barack Obama and U.S. Congress before being put into practice. 
One of the major recommendations involves the elimination of bulk collection of phone call records (known as "metadata"). The NSA said it collected metadata in bulk and filtered through it afterward in an attempt to make connections when searching for terrorist threats.
Snowden recently burned the NSA further in a document which proved that the NSA misled about collecting anything other than metadata via bulk warrants from secret courts. It was also discovered that the NSA can hack any American, and stores metadata that it collects for 15 years

Source: The Washington Post

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

This is just getting more and more insane.
By theplaidfad on 1/3/2014 1:30:39 PM , Rating: 4
They wonder why everyone is buying up as many guns and as much ammunition as they can. Eventually, we're all going to need to protect ourselves from Skynet... I mean the NSA, somehow.

By FITCamaro on 1/3/2014 1:44:36 PM , Rating: 4
So now their solution is to shut down standard ammunition manufacturing and replacing it with far more expensive "green" bullets. And even if you find standard ammo with lead cores, it'll be more expensive since the US has no raw lead ore smelters anymore. South Carolina is opening a smelter to recycle old car batteries but that's still more expensive.

RE: This is just getting more and more insane.
By SAN-Man on 1/3/2014 2:03:23 PM , Rating: 2
Move along. Nothing to see here. Go back to Breaking Bad and the Kardashians, eat your Big Mac, drink your Coke and shut up. You can't be worried about your rights if you're doing these things. Why don't you sign over your paycheck to us while you're at it - it's for the children.

RE: This is just getting more and more insane.
By JasonMick on 1/3/2014 6:23:08 PM , Rating: 5
Read these words and consider them. Think if your country today is truly the country you were taught about in school.

Thomas Jefferson, said it best...

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.
Economists Luigi Zingales and Adair Morse of the University of Chicago and Alexander Dyck of the University of Toronto estimated conservatively that in any given year a fraud was being committed by 11 to 13 percent of the large companies in the country.
Today one percent of Americans control thirty percent of the nation's wealth.

President Obama got a whopping $26M USD from the banks to run for President.

He then turned around and championed giving them $244.4USD to banks.

They were going to repay him, of course, but *whoops* they they're now only $68B USD back in return. *(whoops... they haven't even paid that... they "may" pay that much.)

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.
In 1935 there was 6.8 million farmers.

Today most live in urban or semi-urban (suburban) settings. There were only 2.1 million farms in 2002, and that number is expected to shrink in half or more over the next couple decades.

To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
You're paying for NSA spying and bank bailouts... enough said.

Never spend your m-ney before you have earned it.
The U.S. owes 17 trillion in debt, yet many are wiling to sacrificing our businesses' futures to spend yet more billions to spy on us.
Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.
The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force.
The U.S. spends 1.5 trillion every two years to occupy and spy on the world.

Most alarmingly it's working to replace soldiers with a small group of hand-groomed drone operators, and in the long run is looking to make fully or semi autonomous war robots.

Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.
The last Presidential election involved roughly $1B USD in campaign bribes/contributions from special interests.

It costs $8M USD or more to run for Senate.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes.
General Alexander says he stopped 54 terrorists.

Then he says he stopped 2.

Tomorrow it may be none.

He says he's not spying on you. He defines spying as when an individual agent carries out a in-depth action against you, i.e. breaking into your house and blackbagging your electronics.

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.
As do I.

One man with courage is a majority.
Remember that. No matter how much others tell us the Constitution is an unrealistic fantasy in today's "real world", no matter how many people you feel don't know or care, remember that change can only occur when you become change.

This country has fallen back on its path, but it will eventually course correct one way or another.

RE: This is just getting more and more insane.
By roykahn on 1/5/2014 3:49:02 AM , Rating: 2
Written like a high-tech terrorist. I have asked Joe Biden about your articles and he has stated the following.

"He's made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our friends. For example, in my meetings – you know I meet with most of these world leaders – there is a desire now to meet with me alone, rather than have staff in the room. It makes things more cumbersome – so it has done damage."

Joe Biden is coming for you. He will stand his ground.

RE: This is just getting more and more insane.
By muIIet on 1/5/2014 9:13:35 AM , Rating: 3
Congress is just for show to keep the people believing that there is someone looking out for them.

Welcome to the Matrix, ignorance is bliss.

By Spuke on 1/6/2014 10:36:03 AM , Rating: 2
They've been working on something like this (cracking encryptions) for decades now. It's not surprising or new, it's one of the reasons encryption methods keep getting stronger (clue: it's not because of hackers). This isn't really out of line and IMO it's their job. Spying on us without warrants is a FAR greater issue.

RE: This is just getting more and more insane.
By Dtprodromos on 1/3/2014 6:17:52 PM , Rating: 2
No problem.
Make your password 5000bit, or 1 million bit.
Even quantum computers have limits

By AssBall on 1/4/2014 2:35:52 AM , Rating: 3
What is the point of encoding at all when Government has made it easily lawful to demand/warrant your encryption key?

By drycrust3 on 1/4/2014 12:24:16 PM , Rating: 2
Even quantum computers have limits

No, they simply use one of the back doors into your operating system and read what's on your hard drive while your busy surfing the internet.

More than rights
By HostileEffect on 1/3/2014 3:00:20 PM , Rating: 2
My two cents but I believe its time to recognize the NSA as a rogue group that has levied war against America and it no longer limited to violating our rights as citizens.

On the subject of lead, I would still get some lead bullet casters for a rainy day, versatility.

RE: More than rights
By JasonMick on 1/3/2014 5:25:22 PM , Rating: 3
My two cents but I believe its time to recognize the NSA as a rogue group that has levied war against America and it no longer limited to violating our rights as citizens.
Absolutely. Their actions are criminal.

They're betraying the Constitution that they swore to protect.

They are costing the American economy a trillion dollars or more over the next decade in terms of taxes spent and loss to American business because we're not viewed as a trustworthy electronics source anymore.


That's what happens when you give someone a blank check with billions in funding to do whatever or give to whatever, with basic no accountability other than the fear that the public might find out what you're doing behind there backs.

Due process is reduced to asking persistently from general warrants to consider all the people of the world criminals en mass. Of course these warrants are issued from a secret court, so there's no accountability there.

Oh, and you get to use all the tactics criminals would use, breaking into people's houses, stealing their mail, hacking their computers, stalking their locations digitally, snooping on their electronic mail.


Story line:
Military leader claims nation emergency, economic turmoil, only solution is allocating them supreme power to carry out a campaign of warfare against the rest of the world.

Sound familiar?

It's not really that new a story...

Honestly we're a step away from Stalinist purges at the rate things are going... probably us reporters will be targeted first.

If the NSA 5, 10 years from now decides to send their fleet of drones to Congress and the White House, there's nothing people could do about it. They'd probably claim Congress had been infiltrated by terrorists or some malarkey... I'm guessing they would identify Rand Paul and Ron Wyden as the top two terrorist ringleaders. LOL.

The sad part is I feel over three quarters of people would accept the new dictatorship so long as it allows them the usual niceties -- hollywood, nfl, the Kardashians, etc.

And just like that the transformation to 1984's Oceania would be complete. Big Brother would be lovingly watching us all, filling our hearts with nationalist fire and propaganda.


The imagery is delicious. Gen. Alexander clearly fancied himself one part captain Kirk and one part conqueror-king Alexander the Great. The dude literally built himself a captain's chair at his old facility on the taxpayer dime. Viewed in the light of all this, one must wonder if he didn't fancy it more of a throne.

To protect us all, he had to assume limitless power and seize all our data -- der wille zur macht.

I think Obama, Bush, et al. probably condoned/appreciated this to some extent as it gave them new powers to abuse their political enemies. But at this point I'd be surprised if even President Obama doesn't feel like this one got a little bit away from him. He may be dishonest in terms of policies and campaign finance in many cases, but its more death by degrees, where as the NSA is basically building a semi-autonomous intelligence machine, which could easily be transformed into a SkyNet-like killing machine with the growth of war robots.

As crazy as it sounds, unless this is stopped, if some future administration doesn't use it to declare themselves DFLs, it's possible that AI could evolve to the point where it turns on the humans a la SkyNet.

Obama is just stalling just as he always does with any controversy. Meanwhile the threat to America continues to grow.

We can only hope that this information slowly permeates the masses who are mostly oblivious to news on what they're paying for in their own country, much less the rest of the world.

Otherwise, when the NSA builds a self-sustaining missile-strike drone factory, that's when you know we're all really f--ed.

RE: More than rights
By postpwnit on 1/4/2014 1:06:30 AM , Rating: 2
Hey Jason, since you mention that American business won't be viewed as a trustworthy anymore I thought I'd share my perspective.

Here's a post I made on Facebook trying to convince my friends the importance of the issue. Judging by the lack of response I think I failed :(
Hypothetically: let’s say a presentation classified as top secret by the Federal Government was leaked in which the government claims that with 100% success rate it can unlock any Qwikset branded front door lock without leaving any trace of the intrusion.

There could be any number of public reactions ranging from complete apathy to abject terror. Though if the real world example this analogy is based on is any indication it would skew towards the former. A common rational for such reaction would be "If the government wishes to search my premises without my knowledge I have nothing to hide; I am not a terrorist, nor do I make a habit out of breaking the law."

That rational may seem sound. That is until you consider that the same technique that the government can use to open those Qwikset branded front door locks can also be used by malicious parties such as burglars. In fact by the government not disclosing this information to Qwikset (so that they can improve their locks) an untold number of people are left vulnerable to burglary. Worse still many of the leaked documents suggest that the government itself may be responsible for the design defects in the affected locks.

In case you haven’t realized; the government really doesn’t have a backdoor for Qwikset branded front door locks (that we know of). I was using that as a stand in for the products and technologies being targeted by the NSA including smartphones, routers, firewalls, and operating systems.

In this actual classified slide the NSA indicates that it has the ability to remotely push/pull files, retrieve text messages, retrieve contact lists, voicemails, geolocations, remotely listen into the microphone, capture pictures using the camera, etc of an iPhone. In another slide the NSA also claims that it can do this with a 100% success rate. Though these slides are notably dated (10/01/08), we really don’t know how these techniques have progressed and if they can be exploited by malicious parties.

It’s ironic, but in the name of securing our physical beings the National SECURITY Agency may have left us more vulnerable to electronic attacks. To add insult to injury: Apple has repeatedly denied giving NSA access, but even the suggestion of cooperating with the NSA hurts their brand image and undermines their credibility worldwide. In this way the NSA makes US technology companies less competitive in a global market.

RE: More than rights
By Captain Orgazmo on 1/4/2014 9:15:34 PM , Rating: 2
In case you haven’t realized; the government really doesn’t have a backdoor for Qwikset branded front door locks (that we know of).

Your mind = blown

RE: More than rights
By postpwnit on 1/5/2014 12:59:22 AM , Rating: 3
Not really; the piece of the key blank is still in there and the lock isn't functional. The neighbors might not realize it, but the homeowner would sure as hell would.

Whereas in the case of the NSA infecting an iPhone I don't think the iPhone user would ever know.

RE: More than rights
By Captain Orgazmo on 1/5/2014 9:16:34 AM , Rating: 2
Did you watch the first vid? Lock is still functional, no noticeable forced entry. He just knocked the plastic back out of the cylinder, then removed the metal blank. The lock could then be operated by either key or wire.

RE: More than rights
By Spuke on 1/6/2014 10:45:02 AM , Rating: 2
Military leader claims nation emergency, economic turmoil, only solution is allocating them supreme power to carry out a campaign of warfare against the rest of the world.
You're going over the top now. No military leader in the US has this sort of power nevermind the kind of following needed to exercise that kind of power. There isn't a military member that would turn a gun on his own family or friend to support some wacko general. I'm ex-military and I am offended that you would suggest that "we" would perform such a horrible act against our own people. This is not Iran. We do not have a history of totalitarianism. Keep your focus on the reality of our situation and keep your ridiculous, fear inspired thoughts in check.

RE: More than rights
By Solandri on 1/4/2014 2:52:33 PM , Rating: 3
My two cents but I believe its time to recognize the NSA as a rogue group that has levied war against America and it no longer limited to violating our rights as citizens.

This wasn't a rogue NSA operation. It's pretty clear from comments by the White House and members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees that they knew all about it, eagerly used the intelligence gathered from it, and in fact authorized it and lay down the framework which made it all legal (the secret FISA courts which ruled the data collection was constitutional).

Now that Snowden has blown the cover on the program and the public doesn't like it one bit, the politicians are in full CYA mode, shifting blame for the problems they created onto the NSA. The most you can blame NSA for is failing to stand up to their masters (the politicians) and refusing to do unconstitutional things.

RE: More than rights
By Spuke on 1/6/2014 10:45:44 AM , Rating: 2
Now that Snowden has blown the cover on the program and the public doesn't like it one bit, the politicians are in full CYA mode, shifting blame for the problems they created onto the NSA. The most you can blame NSA for is failing to stand up to their masters (the politicians) and refusing to do unconstitutional things.

RE: More than rights
By Moishe on 1/6/2014 1:13:09 PM , Rating: 2
Rogue? How so?

A rogue is told to do one thing and goes and does another.

The NSA is just a black-ops group. They DO represent the wishes of the President and congress. The difference is they say it's not true.

Frankly, if the administration and both houses say 'OK, the NSA can no longer spy on Americans'... I won't believe it. I don't care who they fire or kick out.

We wouldn't have known it if it were not for Snowden, so how will we know if they're lying?

Unless we can verify that our own government is not spying on us, then I (and any rational person) will assume they are.

It really is that simple. Our government wants complete control and the NSA is one of the mechanisms for that agenda. They already have lied, cheated, stolen, and killed to obtain and maintain that lie. They are doing it now and they will keep doing it.

Time to wake up and recognize where we are.

immediate thought...
By milktea on 1/3/2014 2:33:44 PM , Rating: 2
the end of bitcoin cryptocurrency is near.

RE: immediate thought...
By ipay on 1/3/2014 2:46:30 PM , Rating: 5
That's quite a leap. One might say it's even a Quantum Leap. Oh, boy...

RE: immediate thought...
By milktea on 1/3/2014 3:35:04 PM , Rating: 2
isn't life interesting?
it's moving so fast and so sudden, that we hardly get enough time for a breather.

Let's put it this way
By bug77 on 1/3/2014 2:16:42 PM , Rating: 2
If NSA wouldn't be trying to be one of the first organization that gets one, they wouldn't be doing their jobs.
Plus, we all know a quantum computer is nowhere near completion, but we've been past reason for a while now. If Snowden reported NSA is stocking up on toilet paper, that would be labeled as treason the next second.

Quantum Computers
By PaFromFL on 1/6/2014 8:34:36 AM , Rating: 2
Quantum computers probably will advance technology as much as artificial neural networks and fuzzy logic, which is to say not much. However, the $79.7 million will be well spent because the NSA can now hide their use of backdoors by claiming they have a magic computer that can crack any cyber-security system.

By ZorkZork on 1/6/2014 3:46:47 PM , Rating: 2
I would expect the NSA and every other intelligence agency on the planet to try to build quantum computers. And I would rather have the NSA being first than the chinese, russians or martians. Cryptology has been and always will be an arms race if there ever was one.

And such a device will not be usable against regular citizens. It will be used to break decades of encrypted foreign high value communications. A quantum computer will reduce the amount of time it takes to break encryption ... but it will still take a significant amount of time. In the foreseeable future these machines will be very expensive and thus only available for really important stuff. Decrypting Gmail, Facebook etc. requires entirely different technologies.

This is not a defense of the practices of the NSA in general but of this particular program.

This article is pathetic
By ForumMaster on 1/3/14, Rating: -1
RE: This article is pathetic
By JasonMick on 1/3/2014 6:29:04 PM , Rating: 4
Jason is clearly biased. This is a blog, but atleast show the facts.
NSA Building Quantum Computer for Decoding Encryption Keys
Tiffany Kaiser - January 3, 2014 11:26 AM

Your powers of reading appear to be failing?
he NSA are simply following the industry. They are not leading anything here, nor are they doing anything differently.
Umm except not even Google can claim to spy on nearly everyone around the world. Google doesn't have $45B USD in discretionary budget a year to spend with next to no overhead and accountability.

"The industry" is told the NSA to stop. They refused. Now it's at war with the NSA, battling it like the world's most powerful cybercriminal.
Also, NASA and Google also have Dwave's quantum computers. Are they inherently evil and trying to take over the world just because of that?
Again their budget and ambitions are dwarfed by those of the NSA.

Your information on how quantum cryptography works is decent, but you could find that in 2 minutes with Google, and the article already says most of that.

I think the cause for concern here is just how much money, ambition, and autonomy the NSA has.

Google is a publicly owned company. It has to answer to shareholders.

The NSA is acting as if it has to answer to no one. Its authority is absolute and self-justifying.

RE: This article is pathetic
By milktea on 1/3/2014 8:02:51 PM , Rating: 2
Depending on which sides you're on, you could say that the other is evil.

People gets angry that this country no longer practice what they preach. The constitution is the past. And the special interest is preparing for the new world.
The question is, who's side are you with?

RE: This article is pathetic
By AssBall on 1/4/2014 2:48:41 AM , Rating: 2
Sides? This black and white good and bad left and right "sides" is what divides us. The constitution is MORE than the past, it is is history, it is the finest manifesto of how to ensure freedom while limiting tyranny that humankind has managed to produce ever.

Quit worrying about which silly "side" you are on, and start to think for yourself about which values and freedom you hold dearest and what is happening to them.

RE: This article is pathetic
By milktea on 1/4/2014 6:22:21 PM , Rating: 2
It's not important which values you/individual holds. What matters is what values these special interest/inner circle group holds.
Thinking just for 'yourself' would no longer be an option.

RE: This article is pathetic
By Moishe on 1/6/2014 1:15:40 PM , Rating: 2
It is important, unless you're a sheep.

The sooner Americans realize that all is not lost, it is not hopeless, and their voice matters... the better. If you want to lay down and let the "elite" piss on you, go ahead.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

Most Popular Articles5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
No More Turtlenecks - Try Snakables
September 19, 2016, 7:44 AM
ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment in Children: Problem or Paranoia?
September 19, 2016, 5:30 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM
Automaker Porsche may expand range of Panamera Coupe design.
September 18, 2016, 11:00 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki