The spy agency is reportedly in a race to build its own quantum computer to stay ahead of others seeking to own the mother of all decryption machines.
The National Security Agency has a vast toolkit for getting access any kind of electronics equipment, but it pales compared to a quantum computer, which could break the strongest encryption in much less time than conventional, transistor-based computers.
According to report in The Washington Post and based on NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the spy agency is in a race to build its own quantum computer to stay ahead of others seeking to build the mother of all decryption machines. This is similar to the Manhattan project, the race to build atomic bombs 75 years ago.
Research labs around the world, companies such as IBM and Google, and countries are working to harness quantum mechanics for drug discovery, predictive analysis, machine learning and complex optimization for areas such as finance and logistics.
The NSA has allocated nearly $80 million for quantum computer development, with most of the work taking place at the Laboratory for Physical Sciences at University of Maryland’s College Park campus. Conventional computers require binary data (ones and zeroes), whereas quantum computers uses qubits, which can represent one, zero, and any state in between. This allows quantum computers to operate much faster than a conventional computer.