Protecting Quantum Science and Technology

Foreign adversaries are increasingly targeting a wide range of U.S. quantum companies, universities, and government labs

The FBI works to protect emerging and advanced technology.

World Quantum Day, April 14, was initially conceived to ignite interest and generate enthusiasm for quantum mechanics. It has since morphed into so much more. Quantum information science is an emerging field with the potential to create revolutionary advances in science and engineering and drive innovation across the U.S. economy.

When new technologies are the product of American ideas and research, it's the FBI's and our security partner agencies' job to protect them. Today, adversarial nation-states are aggressively attempting to obtain a strategic advantage over the U.S. by stealing U.S. technologies and research know-how to help bolster their respective government's policies that violate international norms—including respect for rule of law, fair trade, and full scientific research collaborative reciprocity—while damaging U.S. economic competitiveness and harming U.S. national and economic security.

The National Counterintelligence Task Force's (NCITF) Quantum Information Science Counterintelligence Protection Team (QISCPT) unites the FBI with our intelligence and security partners to protect quantum information science and technology developed in the U.S. and like-minded nations.

Members of the quantum ecosystem, composed of industry, academia, national labs, investors and end users, best understand the future implications of their research and development efforts.

"Quantum information science and technology has the potential for enormous positive humanitarian impact, but its implications for our economic and national security are consequential as well," said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate.

"The Quantum Information Science Counterintelligence Protection Team leverages partnerships across government, academia, and private industry to protect progress in this field and thwart nation-state and other adversaries' efforts to steal innovations. The QISCPT is working within the interagency framework of the National Counterintelligence Task Force to ensure that the U.S. and like-minded nations do not lose momentum in the successful development of quantum technology."

"Quantum information science and technology has the potential for enormous positive humanitarian impact, but its implications for our economic and national security are consequential as well."

FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate

What is Quantum Information Science?

Quantum mechanics examines the properties and behaviors of the smallest particles that make up everything around us.

In the quantum world—at the scale of molecules, atoms, and electrons—the laws of physics become peculiar and behave differently than in the physical world we can see. GPS systems, MRI technology, and the lasers that enable today's internet are examples of technology developed thanks to quantum mechanics. But in the emerging field of quantum information science, researchers are further exploring how to control the behavior of these quantum systems to create next-generation technologies for imaging, sensing, computing, modeling, and communication.

Quantum information science could give rise to the quantum computer—computers that can perform certain mathematical computations impossible for traditional computers—which scientists theorize could advance research in communication networks, new drugs, new materials, more defined medical imaging, microelectronics, and semiconductors.

As a result of the transformational innovations quantum can offer, private investors and governments, including adversarial nations, are investing heavily in quantum technology research and development.

The Threat of Economic Espionage   

As scientists race to develop these technologies, hostile nation-states stealing research and trade secrets is a key risk.

Some nation-states, such as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), seek to fast-track getting these advanced tools through illegal or otherwise illicit technology transfer—for instance, illegally taking technology from companies or academic institutions and transferring it to the adversary government for its own use.

When it comes to economic espionage, the government of China is using every possible avenue to steal U.S. companies' innovation and is engaged in a well-resourced and systematic campaign to steal our intellectual property, compromise the integrity of our academic institutions, and put our companies out of business in pursuit of the "innovation-driven" economic growth highlighted in their Five-Year and Made in China 2025 strategic plans.

More specifically, the PRC’s Five-Year Plan identifies major technologies China wants to develop within that period, such as semiconductors, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, new energy, biotechnology, aerospace, robotics, and the devices and software that contribute to the manufacturing process of any of these technologies.

In March 2023, China and Russia agreed to deepen their scientific and other cooperation, benefiting their respective militaries' technology research goals, including nuclear programs.

Investigating and preventing economic espionage and illicit technology transfer to adversarial governments are among the FBI's most important work, as the United States' economic and national security are inextricably linked. Stolen innovation is not just the theft of one idea—it could also result in lost jobs and stolen opportunities for American workers, decreased national power, and reduced leadership in the industries hostile nations seek to dominate in the decades to come.

Safeguarding Scientific Research and Technology 

The FBI and our NCITF partners have developed security partnerships with technology developers, investors, and end-users to thwart adversaries' efforts to steal quantum innovations. To aid in keeping the quantum field safe, we are increasing outreach to government research agencies, private sector companies, and academic institutions to help bolster the industry’s cybersecurity defenses and to coordinate any counterintelligence investigations associated with quantum technology.

Partnerships are vital—the threat from foreign intelligence adversaries has become increasingly complex as they employ an all-tools approach that includes non-traditional collectors, economic and academic influence, and other asymmetric intelligence operations. As a result, no single U.S. counterintelligence agency can fully understand or mitigate these operations on its own. The NCITF, which comprises over 45 government agencies, was born out of this idea. A component of its mission is to protect the quantum research and development landscape, covering all efforts across and within government, academia, and the private sector.

Within NCITF, the Quantum Information Science Counterintelligence Protection Team (QISCPT) is an interagency unit tasked with protecting the quantum information science technology developed by the U.S. and like-minded nations. This team was created as a result of the National Quantum Initiative Act of 2018, which established a coordinated federal program to provide and support accelerated quantum research for the economic and national security of the U.S.

The QISCPT puts the FBI and our intelligence and security agency partners within arm's reach of representatives from all government agencies—not just the law enforcement and intelligence communities—and in contact with key players in the quantum information science and technology ecosystem. This access allows us strategic agility and deep insight into the strengths and vulnerabilities of the field, allowing us to form a nuanced threat picture and positions us to help protect vital U.S. innovation and security.

The FBI and our NCITF intelligence and security partners understand the value and importance of a diverse workforce, especially in research and innovation environments. International collaboration in emerging technology fields is a boon to U.S. industry and academia. The issue arises when talented foreign researchers, investors and end users are exploited by adversary governments to commit illegal or otherwise illicit acts. It is our mission to stop innocent people from being victimized by an adversary nation state—no matter the nationality of the person transferring the information.

The Quantum Economic Development Consortium

The QISCPT is fully integrated with the leadership of the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C). The QED-C membership includes over 200 companies, academic institutions, government labs, and individuals who are working to grow the quantum information science ecosystem in the U.S. and like-minded countries.

Through the QISCPT, each member has direct access to U.S. law enforcement resources to mitigate security threats such as cyberattacks, suspicious requests for access, suspicious export arrangements, or any matter that might lead to the exfiltration of proprietary information.

The QISCPT has visited some QED-C member companies, introduced them to regional intelligence community resources, and established the relationships with the quantum information science community which are so important to protect the industry.

The QISCPT also participates on the U.S. National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on the Economic and Security Implications of Quantum Information Science (ESIX). This interagency body examines overall U.S. government policy regarding quantum information science to include matters of counterintelligence, technology protection, and research security.

The QISCPT voice on the ESIX is an important way technology protection and counterintelligence matters are considered during every step of quantum information science advancement.

How to Protect Your Research  

Research security built into funding proposals opens the opportunity for scientists and engineers to maintain progress towards their research goals. The following are recommended guidelines to assist in protecting your research: 

  • Establish simple systems to report suspicious activities.
  • Security personnel should continuously monitor networks and physical access.
  • Consider having research and business partners sign nondisclosure agreements.
  • Beware of funding and collaboration offers that could be used by an adversary or competitor.
  • Identify whether primary, secondary, and third-party business partners and supply chain are subject to foreign control.
  • Require researchers to disclose foreign research and funding associations.
  • Be cautious of extensive information inquiries, complex shipping arrangements, or products from foreign entities. 

In addition, be on the alert for the following—they are warning signs a bad actor may be trying to steal your organization’s quantum research or product: 

  • Quantum information science program associations that are influenced or controlled by an adversary third country.
  • Customers with overly complicated shipping instructions or middle men.
  • Persons encouraging research collaboration with unusual requests.
  • Unusually large or illogical orders of complete or partial quantum information science-related hardware and products. 
  • Invitations from unknown or unvetted entities to travel abroad to teach or collaborate on critical research.
  • Emails from unknown or suspicious senders.
  • Unusual network traffic.

How to Report Threats 

If your organization suspects a compromise to quantum research and technology, it is essential to involve the FBI by: 

  • Contacting your local FBI field office.  
  • Submitting a tip online at
  • Calling 1-800-CALL FBI (1-800-225-5324).