An executive order and national security memorandum from the Biden administration sets new requirements for agencies to pursue advancements in quantum computing—and to protect themselves against those advances, as well.
A White House fact sheet says that quantum computers, an application of quantum information science (QIS) “are not a replacement to traditional computers. Rather, they are a fundamentally different kind of computer, with the ability to analyze information in ways that traditional computers cannot” and with potentially wide benefits.
Under the policies, agencies are to: “pursue a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to harness the economic and scientific benefits of QIS for all Americans, as well as the security enhancements of new cryptographic systems.”; “promote quantum-relevant education programs and workforce development initiatives”; and strengthen partnerships with industry, academic institutions, and allies to include working with industry to “generate research on, and encourage widespread, equitable adoption of, quantum-resilient cryptographic standards and technologies.”
The policies also sets requirements for agencies to update cryptographic systems to make them “quantum-resistant” including an inventory of IT systems with a requirement to set and meet specific milestones. “Doing so will help ensure that federal agencies get the support they need to fully and effectively protect their networks from future exploitation,” it says.
Agencies further are to “develop comprehensive plans to safeguard American intellectual property, research and development, and other sensitive technology from acquisition by America’s adversaries, and to educate industry and academia on the threats they face.”