The NSA is racing to build a quantum computer capable of cracking strong encryption

The National Security Agency has a $79.7 million research program called “Penetrating Hard Targets” that seeks to build “a cryptologically useful quantum computer,” according to documents leaked to the Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The agency’s goal is to break strong encryption standards like RSA, which is widely used to encrypt communications and secure financial transactions.
But there’s nothing specific about the leaked documents that suggests the NSA is any further along in its quantum computing efforts than anyone else in the science and tech communities.
“While obviously I can’t know for sure, that seems extraordinarily unlikely to me, and the revelations from the Snowden documents in the Washington Post article only confirm that impression,” Scott Aaronson, a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at MIT, told VentureBeat. “While many people don’t want to hear the truth, quantum computing is simply not at the stage where anyone can honestly tell you: here’s how much it will cost, here’s how long it will take, here’s how many people you’ll need, etc., and then you’ll have a scalable device.”
But either way, $80 million is hardly a realistic budget for building a scalable quantum computer today, said Aaronson.
“However, I also don’t think that $80 billion would be enough to guarantee building a quantum computer within a fixed timescale,” he added.