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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

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  • Jasoturner

    Though I have not seen it discussed as much, I assume NSA has the capability to track my financial transactions as easily, if not more easily, than they can track my phone calls and communications. Even if limited to analysis of meta-data, they can almost certainly identify who I am and what I do with frightening accuracy and precision already. By layering in encryption defeating tools, even the pretense of personal privacy is lost.

    How does one restore privacy rights when this infrastructure has already been built?

    • Charles

      I think the ship has sailed, Jaso.
      The only way to restore any semblance of privacy is to get off the grid entirely, or at least to stop using credit cards and VOLUNTEERING information on Facebook, etc. They’re still going to have much more on you than you’d like, but you can make them work for it a bit.
      I admit that kind of lifestyle appeals to me a little, but it’s not realistic. You can’t just give up your job and move to the woods and stop communicating with the outside world, at least not those of us with wives.

      What bothers me the most is the natural extension of what you suggested, when we get to the point that insurance premiums and the like can be calculated on the things you have bought. Wait until they start putting us on criminal watch lists because of what kind of movies we rent.

      • Jasoturner

        A great and terrifying point Charles. Oh, you used your ATM at the Wine store AND you bought gasoline with your ATM card. Must mean you drink and drive – Insurance Cancelled.

        I wonder. You’d think the government would like to do away with paper money completely and make all transactions electronic for tracking purposes, no?

      • sickofthechit

        Start by paying cash. I for one am sick and tired of standing in line while all you cardholders input your data yet again for transmission in the air to anyone with basic technology to grab. Of cours fyou are getting 1 to 3% “cash” back which really gripes me to no end. I’m still waiting for my “cash” discount.

    • carl_christian

      Though I’m pretty much the same old-fashioned civil libertarian, privacy-rights-forever kind of person as lots of other listeners, I do keep asking myself if perhaps I’m really missing the bigger picture about living in a world where everyone lives transparently by default — imagine what that might mean in terms of social behavior?! We might have to learn to accept each other’s peccadilloes and eccentricities in toto, bad and good, because the human continuum would always be on permanent display — no hiding in the closet of any skeletons whatsoever.
      So ultimately we might all get on with less fear & insecurity as we realized we all live in glass houses with a certain number of words & deeds that we might wish had never happened.
      Just wondering.

  • Nicholas Caldwell

    I was amused by the listener comment “I never do anything I shouldn’t online.” Really? Never? The point is that she is not the one making the determination — the government is and by it’s actions it has stated that EVERYONE has done something wrong.
    Take a look at your own Facebook page. Imagine a “bad actor” wants to harm you — someone like TV’s “Dexter”, maybe. What do you reveal? Your friends. What your family looks like. Where they live. Where you like to go out to eat. What music you like. Complained about your company in a “private” chat — ah, so that’s where you work. Where your children go to school. All of this is leverage for a bad actor to harm you. Even if you only had pictures of yourself with the Pope and Mother Teresa you would be accused of being a religious radical. THAT is the danger of pervasive spying.

    And since this site requires logging in to leave a comment — they know what I think.

    • sickofthechit

      They only know what you say, not what you think….

      • Steve__T

        They know what you say, and Imagine what you think. Its called Profiling..

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    We’re the NSA. We neither toil nor spin. But, we sure as hell spend your money!

  • sickofthechit

    No Comment.

  • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

    “…exponentially more powerful…” ???

    I would love to learn better, but I very much doubt that is the correct word, since I know what “exponential” actually means.

    edit: see below

    • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

      Perhaps Tom is making the reasonable usage that since for example Moore’s Law (the pure abstract version) is exponential, and 2nd that since an increase by some dramatic factor, like 2 or 5 or 10, suggests exponential growth, we can just call it this current improvement “exponential”.

      As a reasonable, temporary approximation.

      OK. That’s not quite so bad, just offends the precise meaning.

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      No, it really IS exponentially greater in speed (for certain problems). For certain problems, it could be tremendously faster than any digital computer could EVER be, since it doesn’t work the same way as a digital computer.

      • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

        As I pointed out in my reply to myself, there is a popular usage where simply a large increase can be labeled “exponential” (sic). I prefer to use the exact mathematical meaning of the term, of course, which is quite different than simply a large increase.

  • MrNutso

    Here’s something simple to consider. I’m guessing it will costs untold billions of dollars to build this computer. Given federal budget constraints, congress should pass a law banning passwords. Use the savings from not building this computer to extend unemployment benefits.

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      How are you going to protect your bank account number?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    We’re the NSA. we’re going to develop something no one else on earth will ever be able to duplicate. Even though that flies in the face of the actual history of mankind. Ain’t we something?

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      You left out the billions of dollars it will all cost us.

  • ThirdWayForward

    We really wonder if all the promises of friction-less, non-dissipative quantum computers are a boondoggle conceived by physicists seeking grants and venture capital for their startups.

    The problem is that there are no truly reversible processes. One needs to spend kT of energy in order to set up a computation (or to verify that a system is in the initial state one thinks it’s in) and then one kT to read off the final state of the system. So even if the computational, state-transition part of the computer is reversible and dissipation less (consumes no energy, dissipates no heat, is perfectly reliable), there are insurmountable costs that one has to pay in terms of interacting with the device.

    There is a part of physics culture that believes more in the reality of mathematics than of observables that are concretely available. We see it in all of the blather about parallel universes (multiverses) and time travel and the interiors of black holes. It’s all just an elaborate fantasy. The antidote for it is the sobriety of an engineer who has to build such a device and show that it works.

    One wonders whether this loose talk about quantum computers is some sort of disinformation smokescreen — there may be parts of the NSA that would like it to appear more powerful than it is.

    So let’s say that the NSA becomes god-like in its omniscient data-gathering capabilities. They then face the problem of finding what is relevant in their ridiculously huge and ever growing pile of data. It’s the problem of finding what you want in Borges’ universal library.

    • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

      A more likely hypothesis is that people don’t apprehend the meaning of the underlying mathematics. The evidence for this is the existence of competing interpretations of quantum mechanics, which amounts to competing interpretations of probability functions.

      • ThirdWayForward

        I agree, that the problem lies in how we regard the meaning of both the mathematics and the results of our measurements. I tend to think these are underlying philosophical differences rather than misinterpretations or outright confusions about what the mathematics means in physical terms. Those of a more platonic mindset tend to believe in a ground truth to their mathematics, whereas those of a more pragmatist, operationalist bent (e.g. Nils Bohr) tend to take the measurements as primitives (they are what they are) and see the mathematics as fallible, partial descriptions of the observed behavior of physical systems.

        What has disturbed me about QM computing, insofar as I have looked, is the apparent lack of discussion about the energy one absolutely must expend in interfacing with these systems — setting them up (“preparing the system”) and reading off the results. it is as if the field wants to ignore those basic issues that are inherent in any real-world computational system.

        Maybe this is not at all surprising. Physicists are human beings, after all, they need to get grants to get tenure-track jobs and tenure itself — they have families to support with children who need to be put through college. Anyone in this sub-field raising fundamental questions about it will be treated as a pariah, and their grants won’t get funded. This is how the sociology of science works in practice.

        However, why almost everyone accepts what they say at face value when the physicists start talking about time travel and frictionless computing (which is a sort of informational perpetual motion machine) is beyond me. Let’s not be so credulous — all of us need to adopt the kind of unrelentingly critical skepticism and attention to agreement of models with the experimental evidence that has made physics a great science.

        sorry this is so long…..

        • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

          One rather breathless interpretation is that the quantum machine is simultaneously in an astronomical number of possible states, and thus computes an astronomical number of cases in one fell swoop.

          A less thrilling interpretation is that the machine is in precisely one of an astronomical number of possible states, and when the computation is finished and reviewed, one learns the value of the computation for some random point in the space of all possibilities.

          This latter view amounts to classical Monte Carlo Simulation, where the random number generator is realized by means of quantum hardware, rather than by means of a conventional pseudo-random number generator.

          • The_Truth_Seeker

            No, that’s not really how it works. It’s more like a Monte Carlo computer (that makes increasingly good ‘guesses’ at a solution to very complex problems having many variables). A quantum computer can still only take one stab at a solution at one time. If it gets lucky using a very good algorithm, only one try might do, if not, then it might have to try thousands of times. The quantum computer can’t really decide when the process stops. It just doesn’t have to try all possible input values the way a digital computer might have to do – that’s why it can be so fast.

            It essentially ‘converges” onto a solution very fast, based on the laws of physics and how the system is set up (like billions of water molecules traveling the path of least resistance under gravity). In other words, if you had to compute how billions of water molecules would interact in order to predict how they would behave collectively, it would take forever on a digital computer). A quantum computer can model this directly because in a sense all possible molecular interactions can be dealt with at the same time subject to the laws of physics (just like happens in water all the time).

          • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

            I subscribe to the “less thrilling” interpretation of quantum mechanics — namely that the machine is in one of a large number of states, and when the result is read out, one learns the value of the computation for precisely one of the random possibilities, pretty much the same way as it works for classical Monte Carlo simulation.

            At best, the machine could automatically re-roll the dice and save for readout the best solution found so far (or any other cumulative statistic of interest).

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      They are already able to factor very small numbers using a very simple quantum computer (i.e. a proof of concept has already been done). It’s not ‘just theory” anymore. What remains to be seen is whether or not it can be scaled up to something reliable and really useful. Right now the odds are probably 50/50.

  • creaker

    One thing that always surprises me is the vehemence people put forth against the government intruding on their privacy – as if the government actually cares what they do – and as if, if it’s so important, they make any effort to keep their privacy private.

    Unless you’re doing something illegal. or something the government doesn’t like, it’s really just an exercise of whiny, indulgent, self-importance.

    • ThirdWayForward

      Beyond not liking the idea that Big Brother (or Big Advertising) is watching you, an important issue re: privacy is “systemic risk” — what can happen to relatively free societies when massive secret surveillance systems are used to gain and retain power.

      In present day Russia and China political dissidents who have not broken any laws are under constant surveillance, and everyone there knows that there are nasty consequences for holding opinions that are openly critical of the ruling powers (“that the government doesn’t like”). Do we want a society like that?

      Even more dangerous than tracking dissidents is the misuse of these systems to manipulate those who actually wield substantial political and economic power. It is only a matter of time (maybe it has happened already) before these surveillance systems are used to blackmail politicians to consolidate hold on political power.

      • creaker

        I completely agree – and I don’t approve of this type of surveillance at all. I was trying to point out that the loudest detractors are often folks who never do anything that would invite government scrutiny in the first place. I think this is actually a negative in the argument against allowing this surveillance because these folks can be so easily dismissed as being unjustifiably paranoid.

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      I guess you must have a REALLY boring life!!!

  • DeJay79

    My big Question is, With the increased power and speed of Quantum computing would it be the most critical step towards true A,I.?

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      They can’t do most of the things that regular computers can now do and they can’t be used to reliably control things directly (like robots). Maybe they could be used as co-processors for AI, but they won’t be able to duplicate out brain, unless maybe we actually build a system with 100 billion elements and trillions of connections. Quantum computers will only have thousands of connections and be able to execute highly specialized operations.

  • Michiganjf

    Is it possible something like “quantum cryptography” can be developed to thwart a quantum computer?

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      Probably, but you can probably also thwart it using conventional computers since quantum computers can’t do many things that regular computers (and people) can do very well, like write a note and pass it to someone else! Unless quantum computers become able to read people’s minds, then they won’t be able to know everything and it’s not going to be too hard to outsmart them.

  • creaker

    If this came to fruition, those really trying to hide anything will use means other than computer data and encryption.

  • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

    More states than the number of elementary particles in the universe? Did I hear that roughly correct??? Interesting if so.
    Chess is interesting to me because the number of moves possible in one turn makes the game unsolvable by computers (so far), and I think also more than the number of particles in the universe.
    If Chess got solved that would be pretty darn dramatic. But I’m only imagining at the moment. I need to learn more about this.

    • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

      That’s got to be nonsense

      • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

        One particle can have a lot of states, for instance an electron can be in several possible states (energy levels) in an atom.

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      In theory, it might be possible one day to use quantum computers to work out all solutions to the most likely games that grand masters might play. But, already digital computers can beat all chess masters (IBM’s ‘Deepblue”). And ‘Watson’ can beat all Jeopardy players.

      • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

        Computers can win match play against grandmasters, but not every game, and lose games. See? This is how I say chess is “not solved”. Is that clear, or should I explain?

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      But you can have only one ‘observable’ state at a time. So you can’t ‘store’ all the information in the universe, just a pretty big – random – number that can represent one of a huge number of possible states (greater than the number of particles in the universe). It’s kind of misleading how they explain what’s going on, that’s the problem.

      • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

        Precisely so. This is the key distinction between what I call the “breathless interpretation” and the “less thrilling” one.

        I subscribe to the “less thrilling” interpretation, where the machine is in precisely one of an astronomical number of possible states each time the algorithm is executed. This is essentially equivalent to classical Monte Carlo simulation.

      • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

        The point is that a system with less components could “solve” for the activity on a shorter time scale of a more complex system, for instance. We point out that particles have multiple possible states in order to point out that a computer with X number of components could emulate/computer a far larger than X number of actions.

  • ThirdWayForward

    Bullshit. These quantum computing systems do not have large degrees of freedom that are CONTROLLABLE and RELIABLE. It is purely a quantum engineering problem — whatever the quantum dynamics involved, you have to interact with the device “classically” to put your input strings into the system and read off the output of the device. Are the people in this field completely blind to this?

    Let’s have this conversation again in another decade or two.

    • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

      Interesting point: you can only enter data so fast, you could only deal with so much output practically. But, you could on the other hand let it solve a system, a problem.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      Yep. And you have to power up and air condition the damn thing, too. The NSA didn’t repeal the 2nd Law. Signed..Registered Professional Electrical Engineer

      • ThirdWayForward

        Maybe the NSA can convince a FISA court that the Second Law just doesn’t apply to them or their computers.

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      You don’t ‘enter’ data into a Quantum computer (that’s part of the reason it is different from digital computers). Instead, you “set up the quantum system as a whole” and let it do its thing. The only control you have is to set up algorithms which can quickly converge onto a solution (by programming the “gates” or other means for the qubits to interact in such a way to to be most likely to arrive at a solution) in the least amount of time possible. At each iteration, you never know if you will get a valid solution, or not. You just know that if you iterate enough times you will be highly likely to obtain such a solution. If you can do these iterations really fast, then you will get a solution really fast as well.

      The “inputs” to a quantum computer will always be “superposed states” (i.e. unknown & equivalent to random). You find out if you have a solution by observing the input qubits (which reduces them to either a 1 or 0) and then observing the output qubits which will also be 1 or 0. If the output is a valid solution (which you will have to check), then you have both the valid output data and the input data that generated it. It will usually take a conventional computer to validate the result and control the iteration process (unless the algorithm can converge onto a solution in just one iteration). Quantum computers will only be useful for some problems and will never be able to control a critical process, the way that digital computers can do. Quantum computers essentially use ‘Monte Carlo’ methods to solve problems too difficult for digital computers to solve. In some sense quantum computers are more similar to the old analog computers of the 1950s which could also rapidly simulate and solve such things as very complex differential equations. But, quantum computers (if practical) should serve as a great complement to digital computers and let us solve some really hard problems. I hope they can be realized soon, but I think it could take more than 10 years to get them to perform as hoped.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Quantum computing: the receiver gets your message before you hit the SEND button! Talk about efficiencies. We won’t need any humans for jobs one day.
    –Someone’s NSA

  • sickofthechit

    Why are they bothering to store “zeros” and “ones”? Why not just store the “ones”? If there is no “one” in the “space” then it is a “zero”. Charles A. Bowsher (sometimes a genius, mostly just uninformed)

  • Jeff

    What about light processors? From a conversation with an individual at the Cray supercomputer facility I remember being told that light processors would be the next step of computer evolution followed by quantum computing. Did we skip the light processor step and now we’re going strait to quantum computing? How is the progress going with light processors?

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      Some quantum computers will also probably use light. Digital computers will also probably use optical circuits but it might take awhile till we get there.

  • Ed75

    With math people tried to put society on a scientific basis, but then with Godel the limits of math were described. Now we’re trying to run society on the basis of computers and data, soon perhaps we’ll find the limits of computer’s abilities.

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      We’ll be long dead by then (or at least as significant as ants). You ain’t seen nothin yet!

  • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

    Heh heh….someone asked the old SciFi premise: “Can’t they just wipe us out?”
    lol….

    • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

      Sounds silly (Terminator thesis), but the guy is on to something- greatest app- not brought up for some reason, is …. artificial intelligence- with that kind of power that will become possible. And any super-computer Life or Being (we are talking theology with this stuff, since it would be so far beyond organic intelligence from the first second) could easily decide us Humans are a mortal threat to the planet. since, ah, we ARE. So it must be hard wired with Prime Directive- You will never hurt humans, only help them”. Mother Nature is about to radically reduce our numbers imminently anyway, like any herd that vastly exceeds the environment’s carrying capacity. . The world in 10-20 years will be incomprehensibly bad.

      • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

        Good points but I don’t think more people = doom though as more people also means more minds and more effort to find new technology and solutions. It was predicted we could not feed X billion people, then X+Y billion, etc.

        Speaking of Asimov (kudos for invoking the prime directive), his version of overpopulation (if that) is that capitol planet in the Foundation series.

        Trantor was it?

        • The poster formerly known as t

          Most people don’t become scientists and engineers. Most scientists and engineers are not being deployed to solve problems caused by humans. The fact that you’re quoting a science fiction writer makes you lose all credibility.

          • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

            What? If someone mentioned a sci fi writer, then all they say is unsubstantiated? Wow, that’s handy. What is confirmation bias?

            Problem with Malthus — way too simple.
            Just look at what has happened: more food than ever imagined. He was wrong. His intellectual followers: wrong, wrong, how many times? More than once or twice. Why?

          • The poster formerly known as t

            Using a science fiction writer to back up scientific claims makes you appear to be a fool or a troll. Malthus isn’t wrong if people are still starving to death in countries that were previously self-sufficient in terms of providing food for their population. Colonialism, and more recently globalization have been responses to overpopulation. If a country doesn’t have enough oil, food, or x, it imports it. Of course, that country won’t be able to import enough for everyone, so some people go without. Capitalists often say the world is getting more “competitive”. Competition doesn’t imply abundance.

          • The_Truth_Seeker

            No cure for cancer, yet, either (despite decades of looking).

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      “Sneakers” more likely than “Terminator”, but still the implications could be pretty serious for all those concerned about privacy and being able to keep some things secret.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Quantum or Quanta physicists went to Puerto Rico to dunk their heads in warm water and have neat thoughts. What do you want to bet the federal government subsidized some – or ALL – of this collegial happy talk?

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      You can’t go wrong betting on the ignorance and gullibility of members of Congress (who are mostly rich lawyers and businessmen). You especially can’t go wrong betting on the ignorance and gullibility of the military and “intelligence” services. After all, a high school dropout beat them at their own game (with only a few months of training).

  • ThirdWayForward

    Basically, quantum computing is an imagined, omnipotent computing technology onto which everyone projects their hopes and fears that are related to computers.

    Quantum computing won’t solve the problems of artificial intelligence. It is part of the fantasy that orders of magnitude more computing power will inevitably get us artificial intelligence or consciousness. Minsky and others in the 1960′s were always prognosticating that if we had two or three or ten additional orders of magnitude of computing power then AI problems would in effect solve themselves. They didn’t (and they haven’t).

    Other strategies, heuristics are needed.

  • Robert Kennedy

    Quantum computing is the beginning of the end of the individual as we know it. Look at the earth from outside the glass, or look at a petri dish. The individual is a relatively insignificant factor. Our obsession with the individual perspective is not necessarily based in objective reality.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Up next: we improve cold fusion!
    –Your Government’s NSA

  • carl_christian

    Why aren’t we asking why Quantum Computing’s first uses might be for such pathetically wasteful human endeavours as those of the NSA — instead of some more positive and truly useful tasks that might promote human cooperation & collaboration as strategies for engaging with our collective future. If we’re such a smart species, why do we keep spending our energies & intelligence in such idiotically wasteful pursuits?

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      Because, interestingly, quantum computers might first turn out to be best at factoring large prime numbers (which can’t be done efficiently with digital computers). The interest in quantum computers was in large part initiated by mathematicians who wanted to find better ways to factor large prime numbers. Such numbers are ideal for use in cryptography, since digital computers can’t do the factorization very fast, but by the same token, the NSA wanted to be able to break such codes for obvious reasons… therefore their interest in quantum computers and what they might be able to do. When everyone gets one though, and cryptography is changed to something that these computers will also have a hard time with, then we will be back to square one (except for all the existing encrypted info which could become vulnerable).

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Quantum computing: the problem is solved before the question is posed.
    –The NoShip Agency {reference to Dune}

  • Maia Ettinger

    The mentality that “I’m not doing anything wrong so I don’t care” is very disturbing. What about dissent? Can’t people imagine opposing a war or a policy promoted by the government?

  • sickofthechit

    What could be more publicly funded then the NSA?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    The question is: W-h-a-t-i-s-s-e-v-e-n-t-i-m-e-s-s-i-x?
    The NSA in conjunction w. the Hitchhiker’s Guide

  • ThirdWayForward

    Quantum computing needs its Johnny von Neumann — someone who can design a reliable system from unreliable components and also someone with a grasp of the concrete observables and computational operations who is not blinded by idealistic thinking, i.e. a theoretical engineer.

    The NSA is a social problem — a society based on rule of law is fundamentally undermined by secret organizations that are not in any practical way shape or form subject to laws.

  • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

    Threat of no privacy??? That’s what we have now. Nobody is safe from prying gov eyes, inc Greenwald, Snowden, etc, no matter what steps they are taking- and those steps involve hauling powerful computers, running a whole checklist of procedures to send every lousy email- nobody can normally do that.

    The only step that will work is chopping the NSA and it’s budget in half, and prevent it from random spying- targeted malefactors ONLY. Or the 4th Amendment is gone, and we live in a dark dystopic world forever ruled by unseen gov and corporate overseers who decide what we are allowed to accomplish or succeed at. We are are the fulcrum point now that will determine if the American ideal survives…

  • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

    I used to feel that way too, but what we have is an out of control monster that feels empowered to lie to Congress, judges, prob. the President,… and is a far greater threat to America than any terrorist. The only thing they should really obsess over and have carte blanche to pursue is nuclear or serious biological terrorism.

  • creaker

    But the corporations providing (selling?) this information to the government already have it. You’ve already lost your privacy.

  • MattCA12

    Propeller heads of the world, unite.

  • olderworker

    If ever there was an argument for the preservation of the Post Office, and of snail mail, this is it!

    • ThirdWayForward

      We support the USPS whenever we can. It is a national asset that helps hold our country together.

      However, you should know that the outside of every piece of snail mail that is sent is scanned by the Post Office. This is analogous to keeping telephone records of who calls who. I think this system came to public light only a year or two ago in connection with solving a case related to some crazy angry miscreant down South mailing suspicious powders to members of Congress.

      I would feel better about these systems if
      1) they were made public and everyone knew about them (transparency)
      2) there are provisions for deleting the data once it is no longer relevant to solving a crime (e.g. after 2-4 weeks)
      3) there are strong penalties for using this system in any way that is not related to solving particular crimes
      4) there is a clear line of responsibility for the administration of the system (who is in charge)
      5) those whose records are accessed are notified that they are being (or were) watched, after some period of time, but not to exceed 1 year.

  • The poster formerly known as t

    People are naturally very nosy and seem to constantly be looking for a way to one-up their neighbors. Being nosy helps them keep up, at least, with their neighbors. I think spying and the industrial-military complex embodied by the NSA’s expansive spying is an expression of these tendencies of human behavior.

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    Was the plot of the movie ‘Sneakers’. “No More Secrets”

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    I’m bothered that all those who talk about quantum computers and try to get everyone excited about what they might be able to do, never seem to give a clear explanation as to how they work and what kind of problems they can best be used on (and what kind of problems they are not very useful for). Also, why don’t any of these ‘experts’ ever give a simple example of how a quantum computer could solve a simple problem such as factoring a small number like 15. Remember what Einstein said about “understanding” something well.

    Can quantum computers do addition? If so, how? Can they do division? If so, how? How do they deal with logical decision making, Boolean operations and looping? Can they even execute a loop? I don’t think so, since every algorithm step would seem to require an observation and therefore collapse of the quantum state.

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    If quantum computers become a reality, then all we have to do is switch to custom encryption algorithms which are always different from one another. Even quantum computers can’t determine if a random sequence of numbers came from the number pi, or were truly randomly generated. Only the person who generates such a number can say how they derived it.

    Besides, you can always switch back to the postal system, or exchanged pieces of paper (the terrorists preferred mode of communication anyway).

    The NSA is basically WASTING a huge amount of time and a huge amount of OUR money on a wild goose chase they will never win. That’s maybe why Snowden said “I already won” (and the NSA lost). I hope we can cut the NSA down to size and save taxpayers 10s of billions of dollars (and use some of that for really beneficial R&D and medical advancement).

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    Can’t wait for the quantum computer co-processor card! Everyone will want one, even if they won’t know what to do with it :-)

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    That works great until somebody steals your biometric data (since you need to store this somewhere). You wouldn’t want Target to get it!!!

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    A competent NSA would have 1% of its current funding and staff (starting with 100 Snowdens!). This would save us at least $50 BILLION/yr! Think what we could do with an extra $50B each year!

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    Soon we’ll need a quantum computer just to figure out how much of our tax dollars the NSA is spending (err … wasting)!

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