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The US National Security Agency wants a quantum computer – and has dedicated $79.7 million to the technology, according to the latest top secret government documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to the Washington Post.

It is no surprise that the NSA is pursuing such a potentially powerful technology, nor does the revelation pose an immediate privacy threat – the documents suggest that the agency is no closer to perfecting the technology than university researchers around the world. But if the agency does eventually realise its goal, what do citizens need to watch out for? And is there technology that would allow people to stay safe from quantum spooks?

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