White House Memorandum Addresses Quantum Technology

Photo Depicting Students Studying a Quantum Computer

White House national security memorandum signed by President Joe Biden this week outlines the administration’s policies and initiatives related to quantum computing. It includes key steps for maintaining the United States’ competitive advantage in quantum information science (QIS).

It also tasks U.S. agencies with specific actions to ward off future risks of quantum attacks on the country’s national, cyber and economic security — commencing a multi-year national imperative of upgrading computer systems to quantum-resistant cryptography.

The U.S.’ Commitment to a Critical and Emerging Technology

The world is racing to develop quantum computers, which could bring about tremendous advancements in business, artificial intelligence, science, and countless other sectors. It is estimated that quantum computers can operate over a million times faster than even today’s most powerful supercomputers.

The U.S. continued leadership in science and technology will, in part, depend on maintaining a competitive advantage in quantum computing and QIS, the memorandum says.

To ensure leadership in these fields, the U.S. will start promoting these technologies, encouraging fundamental scientific discoveries, and providing investment in research programs such as nanofabrication, photonics, and cryogenic and semiconductor systems.

Furthermore, expanding education and workforce programs, strengthening partnerships with the industry and academic institutions, as well as partnering with overseas allies and like-minded nations are key to the strategy.

Education in QIS and related cybersecurity principles should be applied at all levels of academia to foster a diverse domestic workforce of quantum experts.

Preparing for Future Quantum Attacks

The U.S. is beginning a long process of upgrading vulnerable computer systems to “quantum-resistant cryptography.” As such, U.S. agencies will be taking specific actions to upgrade cyber-defense so that quantum attacks do not compromise civilian and military communications, critical infrastructure, and internet-based financial transactions.

According to the memorandum, a cryptanalytically relevant quantum computer (CRQC) will be able to break the public-key cryptography used on digital systems all over the world.

To address this, all sectors across the United States economy must practice “cryptographic agility” which will make the quantum-resistant transition more seamless. Fostering the next generation of engineers and scientists with “quantum-relevant skill sets” will be critical to meeting these goals.

Requirements to Be Met as Soon as Possible

The memorandum urges heads of U.S. national security and organizations such as NIST, CISA, and the NSA to cooperate and satisfy both the quantum computing R&D and quantum cybersecurity milestones outlined in the memorandum. Periods of between three months to a year were given, culminating in the nation meeting a satisfactory level of “quantum resistance” by no later than December 2023.

Pursuing a “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy will harness the scientific and economic benefits of QIS, as well as the security enhancements provided by quantum-resistant cryptography.

An executive order to form a National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee (NQIAC) was also signed by President Biden, which would include top-level experts around the nation and White House officials. The NQIAC will join several existing National quantum initiatives and will supplement The National Quantum Initiative Act of 2018.

What Is Quantum Technology?

Quantum technology is cutting-edge technology, with the global tech sector competing to create the next exponential step in computing. By 2028, the market size is expected to be in the trillions of dollars due to widespread adoption in several sectors.

A classical computer and a quantum computer are fundamentally different, in that the former can only compute in a binary state — either 1 or 0, on or off. A quantum computer functions on principles such as Qubit superposition and quantum entanglement, where multiple processing states can be achieved.

This makes them immeasurably more powerful than even the most powerful supercomputers today. However, because these computers require superfluid cooling, they will not be powering consumer devices anytime soon.

Yet, a memorandum of this magnitude reflects the fact that quantum is practically at the doorstep, and quantum cybercrime is no longer far-fetched. Cybercrime always evolves with technology, and the real danger is that cybercriminals may weaponize quantum technology faster than nations can install defenses.

Quantum technology should completely change the world of cybersecurity due to its encryption capabilities, and recent encryption advancements such as homomorphic encryption already display great promise in stopping quantum attacks.

Tech researcher & communications specialist
Mirza has an education background in Global Communications, has worked in advertising, marketing, journalism and television over the years while living in several different countries. He is now working to consolidate news and outreach at VPNoverview.com, while in his free time he likes to work on documentary projects, read about sociology and write about world events.