President Biden has signed two guidelines to ensure that the US maintains its lead in quantum computing while protecting the country from future attacks carried out using this emerging technology.
The US has long been a world leader in quantum information science (QIS), a broad field of science and engineering, and quantum computers are one of the many promising applications of this interdisciplinary field.
Rather than being a replacement for traditional computers, quantum computers have the ability to analyze information in entirely new ways to drive innovations in the US economy, from energy to medicine.
According to a White House factsheet, President Biden’s new Executive Order will further advances in quantum computing by strengthening the advisory committee of the National Quantum Initiative, which will now come under the direct authority of the White House. In this way, the President, Congress and federal departments and agencies will receive the most current, accurate and relevant information about quantum computing technology in the future.
Addressing the risks of quantum computing
In addition to supporting the advancement of quantum computing, President Biden has also signed a National Security Memorandum designed to address the risks quantum computing poses to US cybersecurity.
In the not-too-distant future, quantum computers will be used to break the encryption that protects sensitive government, corporate and consumer data, as well as the cryptography that secures digital communications on the Internet. To address this risk, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will publish new quantum-resistant cryptographic standards to protect against these future attacks.
Still, it will take time to transition the country’s most vulnerable IT systems to these new standards. Therefore, the US must begin the lengthy process of updating its IT infrastructure today to protect against tomorrow’s quantum computing threats.
At the same time, the new National Security Memorandum will also instruct federal agencies to develop comprehensive plans to prevent US intellectual property, research and development and other sensitive technology from being acquired by the country’s adversaries.
We’ll likely hear more from the Biden administration on quantum computing once NIST develops its new quantum-resistant cryptographic standards and federal agencies begin updating their vulnerable IT systems.