As quantum computing and related capabilities slowly but surely move closer to becoming practical realities, Federal government officials are confident that the U.S. will remain the global leader in quantum computing and quantum encryption.

Matthew Scholl, chief of the Computer Security Division in the Information Technology Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), discussed the leading position that the United States currently enjoys  in quantum versus China in quantum-protected algorithms during the Billington Cybersecurity Summit on Sept. 7.

“People do not trust the Chinese national algorithms in their implementations or in their use in their commercial products. The rest of the world is following the U.S. in our standards, both their cryptographic authorities at individual countries … and we are working well with them also,” stated Scholl.

Scholl drove the message that although current quantum capabilities are still in their infancy and cannot break current encryption methods, future capabilities will more than likely be able to do so.

“We will have most of our high-impact and high-value data in the Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) space, and all of the classified systems transitioned and protected with a new algorithm no later than 2035,” the NIST official said.

Scholl also explained that many of the goals for post-quantum encryption are “set in sand” and can easily be changed or pushed back.

“The systems that are managed by the Committee for National Security Systems (CNSS),” are set to be transitioned to quantum-resistant status by 2035, he said. “From a cryptographic perspective, 2035 is very soon to do that,” stated Scholl.

NIST has released drafts for three Quantum-Resistant Algorithms that will be ready for use in 2024.

Although Scholl expressed confidence in protecting sensitive data at the Federal level, he said he does worry “about state, local, and tribal territories” ability to protect against quantum attacks in the future.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.