Be warned: a crypto fake news frenzy, reported on by a dozen outlets, can start with a single, misread tweet.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg Technology contributor William Turton put out a tweet from the Billington Cybersecurity Summit that:
“Anne Neuberger, Director of NSA’s new Cybersecurity Directorate says that the agency will propose hardware and software standards again. Also notes agency is working to build quantum resistant crypto.”
Anne Neuberger, Director of NSA’s new Cybersecurity Directorate says that the agency will propose hardware and software standards again. Also notes agency is working to build quantum resistant crypto. pic.twitter.com/IIvjz1aTjO
— William Turton (@WilliamTurton) September 4, 2019
What he was clearly saying is that the National Security Agency (US cyberspies who watch your every move online) are developing new cryptography that can’t be cracked by quantum computers.
Their motivation to do so seems fairly straightforward: they want to be able to encrypt and protect data they don’t want foreign spies getting access to once quantum computers are available.
What is a quantum computer?
Quantum computers don’t actually exist yet, but everyone thinks they’re coming in five to ten years’ time.
They will have so much processing power they will be able to crack pretty much every form of cryptography in existence.
This means they will be able to hack encrypted messages and data, as well as every popular blockchain and cryptocurrency in existence.
Forbes goes wild
A Forbes contributor somehow misread ‘NASA’ instead of ‘NSA’, and misinterpreted ‘crypto’ as meaning ‘cryptocurrency’ and ended up building a totally wrong story headlined:
“NASA To Develop a Quantum Resistant Cryptocurrency.”
It has since been deleted for obvious reasons.
To be fair to the crypto news outlets that picked up this fake news, Forbes is well respected and it would have been big news if true.
But the fact the story actually didn’t make sense on any level shows the immaturity of crypto news space and the time pressures reporters are working under to pump out stories.
Let’s think about this for a minute
A simple glance at the original tweet makes it difficult to understand how it could be misinterpreted.
Even if you misread ‘NSA’ as ‘NASA’, why would a space agency have a ‘Cybersecurity Directorate’ anyway?
Or be even vaguely interested in developing its own cryptocurrency?
Cointelegraph, Cryptonomist, Finance Magnates, CCN, ZeroHedge ran versions of the story.
Some went as far as to check the original tweet and reported ‘NSA’ instead of ‘NASA’ was developing its own coin.
But that doesn’t make much sense either – why would a spy agency want a quantum resistance coin?
The NSA’s job is to try to spy on people’s activities and transactions, so the last thing they’d want is a new financial instrument that is totally uncrackable by them.
To their credit, CoinDesk queried if ‘crypto’ could mean ‘cryptography’.
The good news is that various projects around the world are already working on quantum computer resistant cryptocurrency.
They include researchers at Monash University – headed up by Dr. Joseph Liu, the man who invented Monero’s underlying tech.