The promise and threat of quantum technology for the U.S. Air Force
All right, we're very privileged to have our next speaker here. She's the president of SandboxAQ Global Public Sector, focused on government issues at the nexus of quantum physics and AI to help solve problems that are not possible with classical competing today. Put your hands together for Ms. Jen Sovada. Alright. Um, so it is the after lunch program that you get with me, so you're gonna have to stay awake today. The first question I have is how many quantum physicists are here in the room? Any, any of you? Quantum? Oh, there's a couple. Okay.
So you guys will keep me honest, which is good. How many of you know anything about quantum at all? A few. How many think that quantum might be important to know about? Yeah, almost everybody. And so today what we're gonna do is we're actually gonna talk about, maybe if there were slides up there, we would talk about what the promises of quantum and what the threats are of quantum, um, in the next era. All right, so we're gonna go back in time. Back to the time of 1960 to 1973, the United States spent $25.8 billion on the space program over a period of time,
over many years, almost two decades. However, we're now in a new race, a new race, very similar to the race that we had during the moon race. And it is the quantum era race. The global quantum spend for 2023 is anticipated to be $36 billion for just one year, one spend one year across the globe.
And why does that matter? And what is quantum in the first place? So let's talk a little bit about quantum. Quantum is cool. Many people don't think it. You can think you're cryogenically cooled. So yes, it is cool, but it it all, it is also cool because it really helps to understand and helps us understand what's going on in the classical world.
Things today are built off of physical systems more so than we think. And we're moving in a world that has been really focused on bits, so ones and zeros, which this community is very familiar with to atoms, looking at things at the subatomic particle level because quantum theory is based on, not on bits, but on theoretical principles that really identify what's going on at the subatomic particle level, which enables us to have higher sensitivity, more precision, and much more information about what is going on in the world around us. And so what is a qubit versus what is a bit, many people don't really understand the difference between the two. So we'll just talk about it briefly a bit, which is what's classical is a is a one or a zero. Information could be stored as a one or a zero. What's different is,
is that a quantum bit or a qubit is something that you can store in what's called a superposition state. It's a one and a zero simultaneously. And what that means is that you have much more information packed into that because it's not a one or a zero and it doesn't become a one or a zero until you actually measure what you want to measure. And so why is this important? It's important because we're in the third quantum revolution today. The first quantum revolution started a long time ago at the theoretical level when people like Einstein were developing what the really, the theory and the fundamentals were about quantum technology. The second revolution happened in really in the 1970s, maybe the 1950s to the 1970s, where we developed things like transistors, MRIs, lasers, and other breakthroughs that are all quantum technology. How many of you knew that when you went into an MRI that it was actually a quantum sensor? It is. It's a quantum sensor.
So every time you get an MRI, the reason why it makes all those crazy noises, because there's a magnet and it's using magnetic field of the earth or not using magnetic field of the earth, you have to actually shield it from the magnetic field of the earth. So it doesn't interfere with the sensor that's collecting. And today we're in the third quantum revolution where we're doing quantum engineering at scale, and it's focused on three primary things. The first one is quantum computers, which also includes quantum simulation and optimization, quantum security and communications, which is post quantum cryptography, quantum key distribution, the quantum internet, the next version of the internet. And then the last thing is quantum sensing. And we're gonna talk a little bit about each of these so you understand what we're, what they do, what's available today, and what's really in the future.
So the first thing that we're gonna talk about is quantum computers, because quantum computers is a paradigm shift from where we are, were to where we're going. And it is really different from what we do with digital classical computers today. It increases our processing power. We're able to analyze more complex systems. We can accelerate discovery of things like novel drugs, new materials for stealth technology, or um, maybe battery optimization. We can model real world very quickly, such as financial institutions. And we can also secure our IT infrastructure, whether it's through quantum random number generators, through quantum key distribution or, or other things.
And quantum computing is something that is not really here yet. There are companies that are out there that are numerous that are trying to make breakthroughs in quantum computing, and they're doing it every day. But we haven't quite gotten to a place where a quantum computer is something that you can plug into on a regular basis and get results.
We often talk about superposition, which I mentioned before, which is that state of being in a one or a zero simultaneously. And then we have the, the what we call entanglement. That's the idea that one qubit is attached to another qubit.
They're entangled and they know what they're, the other one knows simultaneously and instantaneously. So you could have a qubit that's in China, you could have a qubit that's in Russia, and you know what the data is between the two. The interesting thing about quantum, and you may have heard the words, um, quantum supremacy.
All that quantum supremacy means is that you can do something faster than a classical computer. So when somebody says we've achieved quantum supremacy, it may mean that they only can add one plus one equals two faster than a classical computer can. So you need to be able to understand the terminology that's in use so you understand what the applications are for quantum computers. And quantum computers in something that is fault tolerant, error corrected is probably still 5, 8, 10, 15 years away.
But that doesn't make it any less important. In addition to quantum computers, we have quantum security and communications, and there's two primary types that we deal with. One is quantum key distribution, and this is the idea that you use photons in order to encrypt your data. And anytime somebody tries to come into the middle of that, do a man on the middle attack, or you've got your alice in your bob and you've got your eavesdropper in the middle, you know that there's somebody who's been on your network and it's detectable and it also destroys the quantum state that those photons are are using. So you now know that you have, um, a vulnerable system or the communication has been broken.
And this is sometimes called quantum cryptography. We have another thing that's called post quantum cryptography. It's poorly named 'cause it actually should be happening before we have quantum computers around. And what post quantum cryptography is, is really dealing with quantum resistant algorithms and standards and cryptography and encryption, and it includes both classical and quantum based protocols. So this is something that can be done today and you don't have to wait until we have a quantum computer to do the us, the uk, the French, um, many other countries in the European Union, our Asian allies and others have guidelines and strategies in order to upgrade and migrate to these security protocols because of the threats that we have and we know that exists today.
The third thing that we will be talking about is quantum sensing. So quantum sensing is a next generation of sensors where we will have more sensitive, higher levels of sensitivity, um, and understanding what is going on at the atomic structures. On the left hand side, you see examples of what a quantum sensor actually does and what a, or or excuse me, a classical sensor does. And you see things that we use on a regular basis. You see the lasers and you see transistors, you see biomedic, biomagnetic sensors. And then on the right hand side,
we have all the things that are possible with quantum sensors, whether it's geophysical sensing, biomagnetic sensing and material sensing. So think of, um, particle chip particle scanning to make, see if whether or not a chip has been, um, tampered with doing explorations, underwater navigation, um, seismic detections for things, um, like nuclear treaty monitoring. And one of the things that makes this so unique is that we use quantum sensors that are now available that were not available before.
One of the reasons why an M R I is so big is because of the type of quantum sensor that they had to use. They had to use a quantum sensor that it had to be cryogenically cooled in order to function. It had to be shielded from the earth, and it also isn't as stable as other ones are. Now we have things like optically pumped magnetometers and things called nitrogen vacancy in center diamonds.
I'll just talk about ENV diamond for a second. Just so you understand sort of the core principles of how many of these sensors work. It is a lattice based structure. So the structure that you see up here, it's a synthetically created diamond that's microscopic. They create it with a carbon structure, so it's synthetically created. They leave, uh, a vacancy in the middle and they remove one of the carbon atoms and replace a nitrogen atoms. So nitrogen vacancy in-center diamond. And what they do is they pass laser light through it.
It's usually green and based on the fluorescence that comes out and what it's trying to detect, you get the information in the red light that comes out from it. So you're able to tell all sorts of information. For example, if you're measuring the magnetic field. And one of the reasons why these sensors are so interesting is because you're able to use them in, um, unshielded environments.
So they're passive unshielded, not have to be cryogenically cooled and enable you to be used in a, in many, many more types of circumstances and, and situations. So here's some of the applications that you'll see. I have, um, identified in blue, the ones that are relevant to national security in the department of the Air Force in particular, navigation and chip cybersecurity are two major areas which, um, people are concerned about. And so let's talk about GPS, the Department of Defense and the Air Force in particular has said that an alternative to GPS. So alt PNT precision navigation and timing are things that the government is really concerned about. And we know that the PRC has been jamming off the coast of Australia as well as off the coast of China for a very long time. Recently, they, they, uh,
jammed Qantas aircraft and they told the aircraft as they were coming on the guard channel, Hey, this is, uh, the PRC military, we're jamming, go around, we're doing GPS jamming, go around. We also know it's happening in Russia with Ukraine and many other places. So how about we use something that's available to us every day, such as the magnetic field of the earth in order to build an alternative to GPS using those sensors that can pick up the magnetic field of the earth. And how would you do that? You use your true location, which is the the white line. That's what your GPS gives you.
If you did inertial navigation system, that's the straight line which continues to drift with every single mile kilometer or other distance. And with a magnetic navigation system plus inertial, you're able to now navigate more precisely. Okay, so why is this important? Why does, why do we care about quantum? This is a, a cyber conference. This is an IT conference. Why is this important? The first thing is, is that Dr. Pan Jean Hu has said explicitly that the goal of the PRCS China program is to take all of the good technology that's in the western world and bring it back to China.
And what they've done with that is they've built a quantum project that has two primary goals. The first one is to build an encryption, cracking, cracking quantum computer. And why do they want to do that? Because they want to take all the data that they've stolen from everyone else. They're storing it now to decrypt it later and then pull it all together to create really radical insights.
Let's use a non-military example that impacts all of us. Let's say that we have Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, Moderna, Nove or disc that have all been working on cures for cancer. They've all been stove piping their own research because this is about the the way of of, of, uh, creating new pharmaceuticals. And now they're able to pull all of their studies together. They've now discovered a cure for cancer and they control that cure.
How does that impact the rest of the world? Will they share it? Do they sell it or do they find something else that might be used differently? The second thing that the PRC is doing is building a national and then wanting to be a global network to go with their Belt and Road initiative for quantum secure communications to protect themselves from outside forces. Understanding and knowing what they're doing, both from a military perspective, a research and development perspective, as well as from the Communist party perspective. In the last year, over $15 billion has gone towards the government funding for the Chinese Quantum Project, and we're calling this the Quantum Manhattan Project. It is a combination of the p People's Liberation Army, their research and development organizations, as well as their universities. And the three leaders here are very similar to the Manhattan Project. In the US we have General Leslie Groves, which is General Yen, how we have Robert Oppenheimer Jiwei.
And what they do is they have a collective of what's going on across the Chinese government. And from there they provide guidance and money to the research and development programs, to their laboratories and then ultimately to the, their corporations, which are really based on siv mill cooperation. And from there they go into their larger defense industrial base. For example, Kasik at the bottom is very similar to our, our large major weapons manufacturers that are doing space-based weapons, uh, missiles, satellites and many others. And they're providing this information they've gained from their quantum project. And oh, by the way, Russians are there too. Me too, me too.
Putin, just this in this last month has said that he wants to build a quantum Manhattan project, and he's encouraging physicists, engineers and scientists to come to Russia to help develop and grow his, his project that he's doing here. To put it into perspective, there's over 1800 scientists and engineers that are just focused on the PRCS Quantum Manhattan Project combined with Russia. So what is the US doing in order to try to get after this, especially in in a way that that applies to this conference? There are a plethora of policies for national security that have been identified starting back in 2020, really with an executive order that talked about zero trust.
But what people don't often see is that there's also mention post quantum cryptography in it. Did you know that zero trust isn't actually secure without post quantum cryptography because your algorithms are still vulnerable to quantum attack. Most people don't know that. And then we have National Security Memo eight, national Security Memo 10, an Office of Management and Budget memorandum saying that we must now first and foremost inventory our cryptography, know where our vulnerabilities are and plan for the post quantum migration.
And then we had most recently the Quantum Cybersecurity Preparedness Act, which was passed into law that says, we now must do this. And it's, it's regulated. So what does that mean for our current cyber technologies capabilities and mindset? We know that cryptography is vitally important to everything that we do.
It's a secure way of transmitting and storing and sharing data. We have high data integrity, digital signatures are used for authe authentication. We have encryption so that we can actually confidentially, um, secure information. And it's all what we do and what we think about, um, on a daily basis.
The encryption standards, however that we have today, whether it is RSA, elliptical curve, Diffy Hellman, SHA-1, MD five, most of them were built in the early seventies. And we have not upgraded our encryption capabilities since the 1970s. There have been small minor changes, but not a wholesale movement to a new capability.
And these protocols have been broken. There are a lot of systems that we just don't think about that still have old cryptography on them. And so what are the challenges that we see today? Certificate, certificate certificates. They're everywhere. They're on our systems. They're on legacy systems that are still attached to our networks that we have forgotten about, that we no longer use. We have unknown unknowns. We have inconsistent policies and compliance with those policies across organizations, across departments, across the government and in the commercial world as well. What happens when we retire old technology? What do we do with it? Do we leave it on the system? Do we remove it? What happens? And then we also are exposed to store now decrypt later attacks.
And so let's talk about what does this mean? We need to understand the complexity and of our security certificates, for example, there's over 2 million just in a large bank. If you guys have, think about a large bank. And the infrastructure and size of that is very similar to what the, the department of the Air Force has. They often find rogue certificates.
47% of the time they find rogue certificates. So 50% almost of the time there's a rogue certificate and it costs them a million dollars an hour when there's an outage because of a certificate. And finally, um, $11 million total is the average. So in addition to that, we need to remove the unknowns on of the unknowns in cryptography.
Common issues are things that we see here. Self-signed certificates, unprotected private keys, old t l s versions, expired certificates. And so what does that do? It has big consequences and you can see what those consequences are, whether it is identity theft, forgery, stealing of data, and other attacks. We also need to eliminate inconsistent compliance and policy enforcement. Um,
Morgan Stanley, a big financial institution, had a $35 million settlement with the SEC because they didn't encrypt customer data. And they are, you know, their, their big thing is making sure their customers are safe and secure. How is the government dealing with this? How is the government encrypting their data? Does everybody use their encryption thing on their email? Probably not. We also know that not really understanding what's going on cryptographically is hard. It's hard because we don't always have visibility. And so how do we enforce compliance when we have a lack of visibility? What's happening? So we really need to think about how do we do a cryptographic inventory that enables us to provide that delta between what we see, what the policy is and what we need to practice. Here we go. And then finally,
we have to re retire old technology safely without breaking the system. The biggest thing when what happens is, you know, everybody talks about rip and replace, but sometimes when you rip, you can't replace or you ripped it so hard that it can't be fixed. And so how do we do that smartly so that we understand what the connectivities are and the connections and the workloads and what's gonna be impacted? And why is this important? I've mentioned store now decrypt later a couple times. Encrypted data is being siphoned off at record levels and being stored in massive data centers by our adversaries, by competitors, by people who wanna gain an advantage. And we know that when a quantum computer comes around that that data will be able to decrypt it unless we're using quantum resistant algorithms. And so what is the future of that cryptographic capability? Peter Shor, the gentleman on the left in, uh, 1994, he was at Bell Labs and he discovered Shor's algorithm.
And one of my favorite questions to ask people is, are you sure S H O R are you sure your encryption is up to standards? And his, his, um, algorithm showed that with a quantum computer, you could actually decrypt traditional cryptography. So traditional cryptography is based on factorization, adding more prime numbers, like a, a bigger prime number creates higher time in order to get to something. But guess what, that goes away when you have shores algorithm in a quantum computer.
So math is changing. Math is now using lattice based math and isogenic based math and other things that make your your cryptography more secure so that we can prevent the store now decrypt later encrypt deen encryption happening. And so these new forms of cryptography are nice because we don't need a quantum computer to implement them. We just need to understand what's going on in your network or your infrastructure or your file systems. So how do we safeguard against the quantum error? The first thing we need to do is develop quantum resistant solutions.
NIST is doing a massive, and has been for the last seven years, has done a, um, I call it a competition for what the best quantum or post quantum, um, resistant algorithms are. And they just recently last week standardized, um, several of those and we'll continue to standardize them over time. The second thing is, is you need to make your solutions crypto agile and easy to identify. We should no longer have to rip and replace cryptography.
You should build a system where you can put a new algorithm or new standard in without having to hard code your things into your weapon systems or into your networks. And then the last thing is factoring out your Devon production costs. You shouldn't have to be doing this so it becomes super expensive. Your costs should actually be going down, especially if you've created a crypto agile system. And so what I wanna give you an example of what we've done at SandboxAQ. The first and foremost, the th thing you need to do is do an inventory.
Where is your cryptography? What is current? What isn't current? Where are you vulnerable? Where are you not vulnerable? And what are your high value assets? And that should be based on your policies, your regulations, your protocols, whatever it is in your specific system. The second thing you need to do is have policy management and policy enforcement. And this is a way where you integrate and operationalize this idea that you're gonna have continuous monitoring and have continuous observations and, um, visibility into your systems and identify what you need to do first. You don't wanna do the easy if your high value assets are really more important. And then finally is enforcement. And this is how do you make sure that you have all of your vulnerabilities, um, accounted for and that you remediate them and then migrate to a crypto agile system that incorporates post quantum cryptography.
So here it is sort of in a, in a flow chart where you create your inventory, you migrate to post quantum cryptography, and then you have full crypto agility and you can see the things across the bottom that sort of need to be done continuously in this process in order to create a system that enables for you to have insight and transparency into what's going on for your crypto management. Okay, so where, what are we doing with the Air Force or what have we done with the Air Force? Um, we did a cryptographic evaluation for the department of the Air Force. We looked at a small customer who was struggling to identify the third party software that was on their systems in a highly classified environment. This was one of those cases where they'd had a system that had been Lego'd together, like most of our systems are, we have an application from this company and we're using this company as our, our foundation. And then we've got, oh wait, there's a new one, we wanna try that.
And they didn't know if any of those systems had actually been maintained, especially because they were in a closed off environment and they didn't know how they would be vulnerable. So we looked at them and said, this is what we would need to do. And used our crypto science module to scan that software and we created for them a cryptographic bill of materials that identified down to the code level of what was vulnerable and what wasn't vulnerable. And from there we hope that, that we can then deploy this at scale with the Air Force because it helps to identify and track your cryptography inventory, it, you can do it on-prem or or in as software as a service. And then enabling crypto agility end to end enables us to keep costs low, especially as we move into newer algorithms.
We know that cryptography is not forever unbroke unbreakable. We have to plan for the future and understand what that future looks like. And then finally, being able to integrate this into your DevSecOps pipelines for other systems that are being created right now so that you can do that testing and evaluation upfront of cryptography. All right,
the second thing that we're doing is making navigation quantum navigation reality. We've flown several times now with air mobility commands, um, across Operation Mobile Guardian and some others with the idea that we want to build a system and have built a system to create an alternative to navigating with GPS. Not a replacement, but an alternative because in the world of advanced war fighting and um, Indo Paycom, uh, conflict and other things, we know that there's going to need to be more and more things. And what we do is we take the magnetic field of the earth, which is a field that is unchanging, and we create and we use the magnetic maps which have been created, which look very similar to the maps that we have in, um, in the world.
And so the, the, this, what you see here is actually what the magnetic map looks like. And you overlay that with another map and then you sense the magnetic field and you're now able to determine a time and space where you are. And so we've been able to do that. Um, you can see some of the boxes that we had with somebody sleeping on the back of a C-17 and we've been able to do and show the US Air Force that this is a, a reality and a possibility, um, eight months faster than they had planned. Um, this was something a lot of people thought wasn't possible because the magnetic field of the earth changes the crust field of magnetic earth does not change. The polar fields change. And so when you use the magnetic crust fields,
you actually get pretty accurate results. Okay, so why does quantum matter to the Department of the Air Force? Number one, the global investment is $36 billion and growing in the United States, including venture funding, we're only at $4.7 billion for 2023. And do you remember what I said? 15 billion for the People's Republic of China, so you should care. The second one is the technology's here today.
Most people think of quantum and they think of quantum computers and they lump everything together and they say quantum is decades away. It's not gonna be here anytime soon. I've already showed you today that quantum technology has been around since the 1970s, the 1950s. The first atomic clock was actually in the 18 hundreds. So please don't disregard quantum as something that's in the future or something you don't know and don't understand and will never understand.
Our adversaries are focused on winning this. They're focused on this as a technology war Putin. And um, ye have publicly stated that quantum is a priority for them, very much like AI is. And then the, the last but not least is that there's a lot of applications across the department of the Air Force that are vital to the Air force's success, whether it is post quantum cryptography and making sure that our systems are, are no longer vulnerable to the store now decrypt later attacks, whether it is alternative PNT, precision navigation and timing to enable quantum navigation with a sensor that's passive, doesn't need to be shielded from the, the, the magnetic field of the earth. It doesn't have to be cryogenically cooled and can integrate with other systems and sensors. And then finally, simulation and optimization, creating new materials, materials development for stealth technology, for battery enhancements and new battery design, as well as things like drug discovery or other pharmaceutical related issues that are still vital to us as humans across the Department of the Air Force.
And with that, I would love to open it up for any questions that you have. Thank you ma'am. Thaddius has submitted some questions for you. The first one is true random generators use nature to determine a true random number as computers are normally not able to do. So nature's random. Can you elaborate on how quantum random number generators work? Okay. Um, this is, could be like a masterclass in, in, uh, quantum random number generators. Um, the, I dunno how to answer this one. Um, in a concise way, you're,
let's not make these two technical folks just so that we can keep it, the audience, um, engaged. So quantum random number generator, the idea is is that in order to have cryptography, you need to have random numbers. The idea is, is you use a quantum system to do that. And the way that a quantum system works, remember we talked about quantum supremacy and the reason why you have quantum supremacy is because you can do something faster than a classical computer.
So the way that I would say is that every quantum random number generator is actually developed differently based on the different types of technology that are built. But the premise behind them is that it enables for there to be a faster generation of random numbers in order to secure your cryptography. Thank you. There we go. Yeah. This question asks, what is the current state of and future for artificial intelligence powered by quantum computing? Yes. Um,
so I actually failed to mention artificial intelligence and quantum computing. The, the A in the q in sandbox actually stands for AI in quantum. Um, and what AI does to help em empower and power quantum is that it really helps to get to the understanding and insights that you're trying to derive from your quantum systems. So for example, if you have a quantum sensor that is measuring your heart mag, measuring the magnetic field of your heart, all you get is a blur of a signal. It's not like a a, you know, a signal that you can see of a he wave or your heartbeats. It actually is just a blob.
And what AI does is it enables you to factor out the noise, uh, above and below so that you can actually see your heartbeat from that magnetic field. And so one of the most powerful things that AI does is it helps to, um, enhance optimization. It helps the speed and it helps us to get better insights on that sensitivity. Um, one of the, the interesting things about AI related to this is that, and with quantum computers is that, do you remember how I mentioned that with quantum computers you have a qubit and it's in a superposition state of a one and a zero, and it's not until you measure it that it becomes a one or a zero. Well, when it is measured, it longer is no longer a quantum computer. It actually goes into a classical state.
And so now you have a ton of information to analyze and you can use AI to analyze that. Great, thank you. And this is the last question. Does space weather such as solar flares and geomagnetic storms impact quantum navigation? No, it doesn't because you're measuring the magnetic field of the earth. Well, I will say if you're up, up, up high in space, yes it can. But if you're measuring, if you're flying aircraft and lower earth orbit, um, satellites, there's less likelihood for it to impact, um, magnetic navigation, uh, because you're measuring the magnetic field of the earth rather than having satellites where you're getting your information from, from a GPS for example,