NSA Seeks to Build Quantum Computer to Crack Most Types of Encryption [FARS News Agency]
(FARS News Agency Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) TEHRAN (FNA)- The National Security Agency is racing to build a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world, a US media said.
According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the effort to build "a cryptologically useful quantum computer" â€” a machine exponentially faster than classical computers â€” is part of a $79.7 million research program titled "Penetrating Hard Targets." Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park, Md, Washington Post reported. 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. Physicists and computer scientists have long speculated about whether the NSA's efforts are more advanced than those of the best civilian labs. Although the full extent of the agency's research remains unknown, the documents provided by Snowden suggest that the NSA is no closer to success than others in the scientific community. "It seems improbable that the NSA could be that far ahead of the open world without anybody knowing it," said Scott Aaronson, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. On the last days of this year, a well-known privacy advocate gave the public an unusually explicit peek into the intelligence world's tool box, pulling back the curtain on the National Security Agency's arsenal of high-tech spy gear. Independent journalist and security expert Jacob Appelbaum on Monday told a hacker conference in Germany that the NSA could turn iPhones into eavesdropping tools and use radar wave devices to harvest electronic information from computer even if they weren't online, CBS News reported. Appelbaum told hundreds of computer experts gathered at Hamburg's Chaos Communications Conference that his revelations about the NSA's capabilities "are even worse than your worst nightmares." "What I am going to show you today is wrist-slittingly depressing," he said. Even though in the past six months there have been an unprecedented level of public scrutiny of the NSA and its methods, Appelbaum's claims - supported by what appeared to be internal NSA slideshows - still caused a stir. One of the slides described how the NSA can plant malicious software onto Apple Inc.'s iPhone, giving American intelligence agents the ability to turn the popular smartphone into a pocket-sized spy. Another slide showcased a futuristic-sounding device described as a "portable continuous wave generator," a remote controlled device which - when paired with tiny electronic implants - can bounce invisible waves of energy off keyboards and monitors to see what is being typed even if the target device isn't connected to the Internet. A third slide showcased a piece of equipment called NIGHTSTAND, which can tamper with wireless Internet connections from up to 8 miles away. The documents included in Appelbaum's presentation were first published by German magazine Der Spiegel Sunday and Monday. Appelbaum and Der Spiegel have both played an important role in the disclosures of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, but neither has clarified whether the most recent set of slides came from Snowden. Der Spiegel's revelations related to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets. Citing internal NSA documents, the magazine said Sunday that TAO's mission was "Getting the ungettable," and quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying that TAO had gathered "some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen." Der Spiegel said TAO had a catalog of high-tech gadgets for particularly hard-to-crack cases, including computer monitor cables specially modified to record what is being typed across the screen, USB sticks secretly fitted with radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over the airwaves, and fake base stations intended to intercept mobile phone signals on the go. Additionally, the magazine reported the NSA was intercepting computer deliveries to install spying abilities on them, and suggested the agency was "compromising the technology and products of American companies" like Dell and Microsoft. Â
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