Written by Dave Nyczepir
The Small Business Innovation Research program awarded QuSecure a Phase III contract, making the company the sole provider of post-quantum cryptography for more than a dozen federal agencies on Wednesday.
QuSecure is the first quantum security-as-a-service company to reach Phase III, intended to bring to market its software solution, QuProtect, which uses quantum strong cryptography to protect communications and data on any device. There is no cap on Phase III funding, with the average winner receiving over $100 million in 2021.
The SBIR awarded the award for accelerating agencies’ adoption of post-quantum cryptography, after National Security Memorandum-10 gave them a year from the day the algorithms are approved to publish transition plans. The agencies fear that China and other nation states are developing quantum computers capable of cracking the public-key cryptography that secures most federal systems.
“We want to work with as many [agencies] as we can,” Pete “Shadow” Ford, senior vice president of federal operations, told FedScoop. “They call.”
SBIR agencies are the Small Business Administration; departments of agriculture, commerce, defense, education, energy, health and human services, homeland security, transportation; Environmental Protection Agency; NASA and the National Science Foundation.
QuSecure is in talks with various trade agencies, DHS, and the Department of Justice; works on clearances with the DOD and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; and has agreements with several national labs, Ford said.
The company’s goal is to meet agencies’ post-quantum “baseline” cybernetic needs – providing each with solutions at the appropriate technology readiness level (TRL) – as it continues to progress at developed scale. by NASA on its way to protecting top-secret data enclaves, Ford said.
The solutions agencies need for this exercise depend on their individual use cases and implementation timelines.
“The Department of Justice may need something completely different, as part of its vulnerability risk management framework, than, say, a DOD client,” Ford said. “And NASA may need something completely different for the exoatmospheric than other customers who are indoatmospheric.”
QuSecure received SBIR Phase I funding of up to $250,000 in 2019 and Phase II funding of up to $1.25 million earlier this year, a testament to how quickly of its Phase III award. The company did not end federal operations until January.
Phase III also allows QuSecure to receive subcontracts and funding outside of SBIR, and it may win future Phase III awards where possible.
The company is emphasizing crypto-agility, the ability to work with multiple post-quantum cryptography algorithms, as the National Institutes of Standards and Technology prepares to approve several for standardization in the coming weeks.
“Are you able to work with all of them?” said Ford.