White House science and technology officials are working to size up a host of challenges that will be posed in the coming years as quantum computing technologies become more mature, including migrating security technologies and attracting a stronger quantum science workforce to the United States.

While the continued development of quantum computing is expected to bring a host of beneficial applications along with it, the technology also poses great risk to current cybersecurity schemes that rely on encryption that quantum tech will be able to easily defeat, one White House official said.

Jonah Force Hill, Director of Cybersecurity and Emerging Technology Policy at the White House’s National Security Council said during a May 16 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that quantum presents itself as a double-edged sword to future applications.

“This is a technology that poses both tremendous opportunities for science, technology, and engineering,” he said. “But it also carries significant risks primarily to the cryptographic systems that are used to secure a variety of digital systems on the internet and in technology generally, specifically public key cryptography.”

Hill also raised some concerns for wide sectors of the economy that will need to transition their security footing to protect against attack methods that rely on quantum tech. “There are a lot of sectors and areas of the United States economy that aren’t going to be equipped to do this quickly, and won’t be able to make the kinds of necessary migrations alone,” he said.

Speaking at the same event, Charles Tahan, Assistant Director for Quantum Information Science and Director of the National Quantum Coordination Office within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, explained that future security struggles won’t likely evolve into quantum versus quantum affairs.

“In order to protect yourself against a future quantum computer you don’t need quantum technology now,” he said. “We know how to protect our networks with classical protocols that are already very nearly complete.”

Another part of the solution mix has everything to do with people, Hill said, explaining that the U.S. is trying to attract people from other countries to help beef up the domestic mix of quantum workforce talent. “You want to attract those leading thinkers from abroad to come here, the more people we can bring in from overseas to come and work with us the better,” he said.

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