Quantum computer is dead, alive or hacked

schrodingers_catNASA’s Quantum computer may or may not have a security problem.

The D-Wave 2X quantum computer at NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing facility is being used to research a new area of computing.

The machine is also being used by researchers at universities, and it’s hooked up to the internet, like other NASA supercomputers made available to academics.

But NASA engineers, while happy to talk about its capabilities, were less happy about mentioning the security measures in place to stop hackers.

“It’s behind various security firewalls, with RSA security tokens to get in,” said David Bell, a director at the Universities Space Research Association, in response to a question. ”We are very much aware of systems being hacked,” said Rupak Biswas, who heads exploration technology at the NASA Ames Research Centre, in response to another question. “NASA, of course, is a major target”.

But hacks asking about hacking were quickly shut down by a NASA moderator, who said the topic was “for later discussion at another time”.

But given everyone’s obsession about security it is one which might not go away that easily.

What a D-Wave machine does in a second” would take a conventional computer with a single core “10,000 years” to perform a similar task, said Hartmut Neven, director of engineering at Google, told the same news conference.

Hacking such a computer would be a major challenge, but if you did get control of it you could programme it to solve some serious encryption problems rather quickly.  It should make brute force password guessing a doddle.