NSA Reportedly In Development Of An Encryption-Cracking Quantum Computer

According to The Register, NSA in planning to build a quantum computer capable of analysing everything that is going on the Internet. And they have a big budget allocated for it too, around $80 million dedicated for the quantum computer development.

The main goal described is something that the NSA had in mind for some time now. A computer that can perform massive amounts of processes which can break the traditional encryption system. And since we live in an era where technology is advancing at a rapid pace, the NSA wants to keep up with it as much as it can.

“The application of quantum technologies to encryption algorithms threatens to dramatically impact the US government’s ability to both protect its communications and eavesdrop on the communications of foreign governments,” according to an internal document provided by Snowden.

And the US are not alone in quantum computing development. The EU and Switzerland are developing their own quantum computers as well. And the competition may become tense as more and more countries could start developing such computers. Currently, there is only one Canadian company named D-Wave which is selling quantum computing systems to Google and NASA. President Vern Brownell however shed some light on this matter and told The Register that they are only performing quantum-speed calculations for a variety of tasks and not selling full-fledged quantum computers.

D-Wave’s product is based on Shor’s algorithm, a method invented in 1994 using quantum factorization which has the ability to break most modern encryption systems. But Brownell stated that they are not interested in utilizing it for such actions.

“Folks say to us ‘you can’t do Shor’s algorithm,’ but we don’t want to do Shor’s algorithm,” Brownell said. “You can’t build a business around decrypting.”

However, the NSA is surely interested in this particular algorithm and want to build a Shor-based computing system with the funding allocated in their research. If they are successful, the NSA will be able to access any type of security, anywhere in the world, at any given time. But it’s a long way from theoretical talk to practical results.

Thank you The Register for providing us with this information

Stealing Encryption Keys From A Computer Just By Listening

A team of researchers have managed to crack strong encryption algorithms by simply listening to a laptop as it decrypts it. I don’t mean they listened to someone type, they physically listened to the electrical components such as the processors and capacitors and found that they could isolate the vibrations made by these components to extract the RSA 4,096-bit encryption key in less than an hour!

Using a microphone and some software based audio filters they were able to extract keys, of course the microphone needs to be high powered and in close proximity. The team found parabolic microphones to work very well as they could be as much as 13 feet away from the system while recording what they needed. What’s even crazier is that they managed to do it with a regular smartphone, but the device had to be within a foot of the laptop. While a final test found that just recording the computers electrical ground potential could also provide the key.

So far the team have only cracked one type of RSA encryption, but there is no reason why they can’t decipher the sound paterns for different software. If your hiding some top secret information on your laptop, you may want to watch out for people putting their mobiles next to your computer, and be especially wary of people pointing parabolic microphones at you, just because you’re not speaking aloud, doesn’t mean there is nothing to record.

Personally I do think this raises some interesting security concerns, but on the other hand the method for extracting the keys is very impressive.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Engadget.