90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Quantum Computing, The NSA And The Future Of Cryptography

The NSA can already crack most cryptography; now it’s working on a quantum computer to bust the rest. Is it the end of for-your-eyes-only?

A June 6, 2013, file photo, is an aerial view of the cooling units at the NSA's Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah. Electrical failures are complicating the opening of the National Security Agency’s largest data storage center. (AP)

A June 6, 2013, file photo, is an aerial view of the cooling units at the NSA’s Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah. Electrical failures are complicating the opening of the National Security Agency’s largest data storage center. (AP)

The world’s been up in arms because the US National Security Agency, the NSA, has been tapping and hacking and buying its way into private data all over the place.  What if it didn’t have to tap and hack and buy?  What if the NSA could build a quantum computer that could break any encryption out there and walk right in?  The latest news out of the revelations from super-leaker Edward Snowden says it’s trying.  Racing for a computer exponentially more powerful than anything now.  This hour On Point:  the NSA, quantum computing, and the future of cryptography.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Steven Rich, database editor for the investigative at The Washington Post. (@dataeditor)

Seth Lloyd, professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Matthew Green, cryptographer and research professor at Johns Hopkins University. Author of the blog, “A Few Thoughts On Cryptographic Engineering.” (@Matthew_D_Green)

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: NSA seeks to build quantum computer that could crack most types of encryption — “The development of a quantum computer has long been a goal of many in the scientific community, with revolutionary implications for fields such as medicine as well as for the NSA’s code-breaking mission. With such technology, all current 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.”

Wired: The quest to make encryption accessible to the masses — “Kobeissi’s challenge, to make encrypted online messaging user-friendly, has long been a bugbear of the crypto community. A paper, written in 1999, demonstrated that the encryption program PGP completely baffled most users in a series of tests. The study, now fourteen years old, is still frequently cited today as a long-unanswered call to arms.”

A Few Thoughts On Cryptographic Engineering: How does the NSA break SSL? — “You see, the NSA BULLRUN briefing sheet mentions that NSA has been breaking quite a few encryption technologies, some of which are more interesting than others. One of those technologies is particularly surprising to me, since I just can’t figure how NSA might be doing it. In this extremely long post I’m going to try to dig a bit deeper into the most important question facing the Internet today. Specifically: how the hell is NSA breaking SSL?”

Listen: The Eerily-Awesome Music Of A Quantum Computer

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 23, 2014
Specialist Ronnie Howard, center, calls out prices as he works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Beyond the turmoil shaking financial markets, the U.S. economy remains sturdier than many seem to fear. (AP)

The global economic wobble. Europe weakness. China fears. Wild markets. We’ll lay out the global economy now.

Oct 23, 2014
A screenshot from the interactive game, "Depression Quest," the game at the root of the ongoing #GamerGate controversy. (Courtesy  "Depression Quest")

#GamerGate. Sexism, misogyny and rough stuff in a video game world culture clash.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 22, 2014
Authors Nicholas Kristof and wife Sheryl WuDunn attend the premiere of "Meena" at the AMC Loews Theater on Thursday, June 26, 2014 in New York.

Author and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof says regular folks like us can change the world. He explains how. Plus: we remember the late, great Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee.

 
Oct 22, 2014
Health workers carry the body of a woman suspected of contracting the Ebola virus in Bomi county situated on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. (AP)

We’ll go to Liberia, and hear from a pastor and a physician at the epicenter of the Ebola crisis.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Introducing The Explicast: A New Podcast From On Point Radio
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Confused about the news? Don’t worry: so are we sometimes! Introducing a new On Point Radio podcast: The Explicast. You can find Episode One right here.

More »
3 Comments
 
Two LIVE Tracks From Jazz Violinist Regina Carter
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Regina Carter shares two live tracks — one arrangement, and one original composition — with Tom Ashbrook in the On Point studio.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: October 17, 2014
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

We talk Facebook mishaps, whether Katy Perry was actually right and the glory of architectural giants and their iconic windows.

More »
Comment