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US NSA seeks to develop quantum computer to break supercomplex encryptions

January 03, 2014, 8:26 UTC+3 WASHINGTON
On the strength of the documents provided by Snowden it is difficult to judge how far the NSA advanced in developing a quantum computer
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© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir Zinin

WASHINGTON, January 03, 8:22 /ITAR-TASS/. The US National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a quantum computer which may be used to break encryptions of supercomplex codes of information systems belonging both to the governments of other countries and private companies, The Washington Post newspaper reported on Thursday in an article placed on its website, upon studying yet another portion of classified documents leaked from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

It transpired that the efforts to develop a supercomputer operating on the principles of quantum mechanics and basically differing from classical computers are part of the NSA's broader research program nicknamed "Penetrating Hard Targets" and which has a budget of $79.7 million. The program is being implemented at a technical laboratory in the capital's suburb of College Park which is known for the fact that Maryland University is also located there. The NSA headquarters is also situated nearby, in Maryland.

On the strength of the documents provided by Snowden it is difficult to judge how far the NSA advanced in developing a quantum computer. However, the Washington Post, which polled a number of American scientists, arrived at a conclusion that the NSA has hardly achieved more serious successes along the path than civilian specialists at universities and private companies. Scott Aronson, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says it is just impossible that the NSA is far ahead of all without anyone knowing about that.

The idea of developing a quantum computer was expressed and theoretically substantiated way back at the beginning of the 1980s by scientists of various countries, including those in the Soviet Union and the United States. However, attempts at building such a device which would perform much faster per unit of time than the classical computer have not led so far to any practical results. Nevertheless many companies, specifically those in the USA, Canada, and Western Europe, go ahead with the research efforts in that direction.

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