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Editorials represent the institutional view of the newspaper. They are written and edited by the editorial staff, which operates separately from the news department. Editorial writers are not involved in newsroom operations.

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Editorial: Federal cybersecurity needs tightening

CSU study zeros in on vulnerable government websites (copy)

For decades, computer scientists have worked on a new way to process data using the power of quantum computing. Their efforts are now reaching maturity, and because they greatly improve the ability of computers to crack codes, their success also poses major national security concerns.

That’s why the U.S. Senate should give close consideration to bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., that would require federal agencies to take new steps to preserve the confidentiality of their files. The bill passed the House on Tuesday.

Quantum computing takes advantage of the complex quantum physics of molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles to greatly increase the speed of solving certain complex computer problems. It appears to be particularly effective in decoding encrypted files.

Since World War II, a major American advantage in national security has been the ability of our code breakers to learn what our adversaries are saying and planning.

With the advent of supercomputers here, in China and elsewhere, cyber espionage and counter espionage have become increasingly important issues that merit our attention.

Quantum computing promises a huge leap in the intensity and success of such spying. U.S. government agencies are arguably not ready. During the past decade, many have been shown to use outdated and too easily compromised cybersecurity systems.

We have seen many damaging thefts from such targets as the Office of Personnel Management’s lists of people with security clearances and even the National Security Agency’s toolkits for stealing internet files.

The Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Preparedness Act introduced in April by Rep. Mace and others aims to establish resilient cryptographic standards for federal computer networks as swiftly as possible.

It also would require that they be implemented within a year of being ready.

The legislation would task the National Institute of Science and Technology with developing the standards and the Office of Management and Budget with implementing them, and it would require annual reports from OMB on their effectiveness.

Any delay in moving this legislation forward will only lengthen the window of vulnerability that federal agencies — and all of us — will face in the emerging quantum computing era.

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