White House issues two quantum directives set to bolster American infrastructure

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The White House announced new plans to promote quantum technology research and development while helping U.S. computer networks transition to post-quantum cryptography standards.

The Biden administration announced two new directives that focus on incorporating quantum computing technology into the U.S. cybersecurity infrastructure and policy landscape, the latest federal action regarding the emerging technology.

Announced on Tuesday afternoon, the directives work to establish a government oversight board to advance quantum science and technological development, emphasizing innovations in quantum computing technologies in relation to cryptography. 

“While quantum itself is not new, recent developments in the field have shown the potential to drive innovation across the American economy, from energy to medicine, through advancements in computing, networking, and much like the earlier technological revolutions brought about by the Internet, GPS, and even the combustion engine,” a senior administration official said on a background call. 

While the first directive lays out an independent advisory body for quantum information science and technology. This board will work on disseminating knowledge about the latest developments in quantum to lawmakers and the general public and guide policymaking. It will work directly beneath the White House.

The second directive focuses on quantum’s intersection within national security. Dubbed the National Security Memorandum, it will act as a guidebook for agencies and other institutions to transition their systems to become quantum-resistant.  

Officials are pushing for digital networks to adapt to post-quantum cryptography standards as a functioning quantum computer could use advanced algorithms to break through standard encryption. 

“Given the complexity, costs and time required to fully transition to quantum resistance standards, the (National Science Foundation) provides a roadmap for agencies to inventory their IP system for quantum vulnerable cryptography,” the official said. 

Quantum technology has been gaining mainstream attention by governments around the world in recent years. While harnessing the technology stands to impact a myriad of sectors, such as telecommunications and touch-based sensors, officials are concerned that a functioning quantum computer could undermine sensitive data through its powerful decrypting algorithms. 

Experts estimate that a functioning quantum computer will be operational within five to 10 years.

Biden’s directives aim to jumpstart the broad transition to post-quantum cryptography to safeguard national infrastructure ahead of time. 

“There's a particular need for our national security community to prove quantum cryptography,” a spokesperson said. 

Earlier this year, the Biden administration unveiled a new education initiative to help foster a quantum-ready workforce, along with the previous Trump administration national strategy plans published in 2018.

Congress has followed suit, introducing a slew of new legislation aimed at promoting quantum research and cryptography standards within the U.S. and protecting databases and infrastructure networks.  

“The process to transition America's most vulnerable IT systems to these new standards will take substantial time, resources and commitment,” a Biden administration spokesperson said. “Accordingly, America must start the lengthy process of updating our IT infrastructure today to protect against this quantum computing threat tomorrow.”

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