More Quantum-Focused Legislation Aims to Implement Stronger Cryptography Standards

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The bipartisan bill seeks to fortify federal networks as innovation in quantum computing poses new threats to national security.

As nations around the world race to develop a viable quantum computer, new bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate Thursday aims to strengthen federal networks before such powerful computers can thwart government encryption.

Introduced by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Maggie Hassan, D-NH, the Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Preparedness Act works to incentivize federal computer systems to shift to quantum-resilient cryptography. While experts estimate a functional quantum computer is roughly five to 10 years away, innovation in the field of quantum computing is rapidly accelerating, prompting U.S. officials to hustle toward preventative cybersecurity measures before powerful quantum algorithms decrypt standard present-day encryption methods.

“The development of quantum computers is one of the next frontiers in technology, and with this emerging technology comes new risks as well,” said Hassan. “Our national security information must remain secure as this technology quickly develops, and it is essential that the federal government is prepared to address cybersecurity concerns.”

The Senate bill acts as a companion to the same bill introduced in the House in April. 

The bills stipulate that the Office of Management and Budget would prioritize a federal strategy and acquisitions that would shift information technology systems to post-quantum cryptographic standards developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 

OMB officials would then send an annual report to Congress outlining post-quantum cryptography risks, along with funding requirements. 

“Quantum computing will provide for huge advances in computing power, but it will also create new cybersecurity challenges,” Portman commented. “This bipartisan legislation will require the government to inventory its cryptographic systems, determine which are most at risk from quantum computing and upgrade those systems accordingly.

Quantum has been a popular legislative topic on Capitol Hill as well as in the White House. Previously, Portman and Hassan introduced another bill focused on allocating more federal resources to quantum research and development. In the Executive Branch, President Biden issued two new directives to spur more quantum technology and computing development.

Other federal agencies, such as NIST, have recently worked on developing several quantum-resistant algorithms to protect both private and public networks from future quantum decryption.