Are Quantum Computers A Threat To Cryptocurrency?

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An encrypted email sent today can be harvested, stored and decrypted in the future once a quantum computer is available – a so-called “harvest now, decrypt later” attack, which some security experts believe is already happening. The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. To understand how quantum computers work, you first need to understand that classical computers – like the one you have at home or use for work – represent all bits of data as being one of two states, either a 0 or a 1. Quantum computers are special machines that can perform certain calculations significantly faster than everyday computers – known as “classical computers” – and represent the next frontier in computation technology.

But the cost of building quantum computers is so great that there are only a few organisations with deep enough pockets. See NGRAVE’s CEO, Ruben Merre, explaining the future of quantum-resistant algorithms with Kitco in April 2022. And to drive that point home, back in 2018 Universal Quantum calculated that in order to break RSA encryption – commonly used by email providers and banks – an ion quantum computer would need to be 100m2 – roughly the size of a football pitch. Quantum computers aren’t smarter than existing binary-based computers, but they are much faster. ‘Quantum Supremacy’ makes challenges that because of time constraints are simply unfeasible for existing chip-based computers suddenly within reach. Impressive as this is, the improvement in conventional computer processing power is limited by Moore’s Law – predicting the number of transistors on microchips will double every two years.


This is yet another topic, much like “ centralization”, which critics use to try to spread FUD without telling the full story or acknowledging how realistic various scenarios are. In a way, you can think of Turing tests and quantum supremacy tests in much the same way. Ideas around how to create quantum cryptographically-secure blockchain tech has been around since at least 2019. Now Mark Webber at the University of Sussex, UK, and his colleagues have investigated how large a quantum computer you would need to break bitcoin, in terms of the number of qubits, or quantum bits, the equivalent of ordinary computing bits. Sign up for Crypto for Advisors, our weekly newsletter defining crypto, digital assets and the future of finance.

Could Quantum Computers Defeat Bitcoin? Not So Fast. – Decrypt

Could Quantum Computers Defeat Bitcoin? Not So Fast..

Posted: Sun, 29 May 2022 07:00:00 GMT [source]

Historical Bitcoin network hash rate from Coin MetricsIn other words, quantum computers cannot be used to competitively mine bitcoin, and that isn’t going to change anytime in the foreseeable future. Bitcoin mining is performed by specialized hardware, called ASICs , which plug random input values from a huge set of possibilities into the SHA-256 hash function in hopes that an output value will be below the difficulty target. Finding such a value allows the miner to propose a block and earn the block reward with newly issued bitcoins.

The threat of quantum computers to proof-of-work blockchains

If sufficiently large quantum computers are available for the public, mining activity in the classical sense becomes obsolete, as quantum computers always win. Without considering quantum noise, the size of the quantum computer needs to be ≈104 qubits. The SHA cluster of cryptographic functions was created by the US NSA in the early 2000s. Bitcoin uses the 256-bit version to encrypt all transactions that need to be verified by the mining network before their addition to the blockchain. This is also called proof-of-work consensus because the miners essentially validate how the bitcoin amounts coming from each block are distributed based on the contribution to cracking the cryptographic key assigned to each transaction.

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Bitcoin developers and mathematicians haven’t been sitting with their fingers in their ears pretending not to hear the approaching threat of quantum computing. They’ve been developing different quantum-resistant solutions to Bitcoin’s current protocol for years. The Hyperledger Foundation, the technology behind the QUANT token, is working on post-quantum LTC cryptography as part of its Ursa project, a library of cryptography software available for Hyperledger projects. Eventually, currently used encryption schemes must be replaced by new ones that are quantum-resistant.

For starters, Hurley suggests doubling or tripling the length of cryptographic keys. “Doubling the length of the encryption key is even more effective in a symmetric encryption scheme,” he said. “Quantum computers could use Grover’s Algorithm to break symmetric keys in quadratic time, but that’s not nearly fast enough to overcome a longer key.” The Bitcoin Software and Security Effort is a four-year research and development program aimed at strengthening the Bitcoin network against any potential external threat. The program includes regular financial contributions to Bitcoin Core development and investigation into the development of software to provide strong robustness and correctness guarantees.

IBM’s quantum processor, dubbed “Eagle,” is considered the world’s most powerful quantum computing system to date – containing 127 qubits. A long way off from the estimated 1.9 billion qubits required to break ECDSA within 10 minutes. Both papers concurred that the largest threat posed by quantum computers to crypto is not to mining but by breaking the “Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm,” or ECDSA, which is used by bitcoin and a vast majority of other leading cryptocurrencies.

Use of Advanced Technology

Figure 4 Step 2 applies the function on the superposition of all possible values of the extra nonce and the miner’s classical information. Additionally, the hashing quantum circuit needs enough input qubits to hold the value of the Hash. IBM is confident that it can exponentially increase the qubit number in the next few years, and we could see a processor with millions of qubits in at most 5 years, but reaching billions of qubits may take double that time. There is no immediate threat for the Bitcoin network, yet core developers should consider upgrading the encryption code to make it quantum-resistant by the end of this decade. To answer this question, we must look at the health of the Bitcoin network today. As previously mentioned, executing a 51 percent attack on the Bitcoin network is a reasonably expensive task today, and it will only become increasingly expensive with BTC’s rising adoption and usage.

Leading quantum software company Zapata Computing notes that quantum computing could positively impact various goals outlined by the United Nations for sustainable development. Specifically, quantum computing is expected to substantially impact the agriculture industry as it promises to dramatically reduce the power required to manufacture fertilizers, which accounts for close to 2 percent of global energy. Recently, Vitalik Buterin also mentioned that Google’s quantum computer is not really a threat to crypto coins. He stated the device is just a proof of concept, and will not threaten the current encryption technology. How this upgrade would be introduced is subject to debate, but one method would be through a soft fork upgrade.

You need to design structures that these computers can’t take advantage of,” Groth says. In the case of blockchain systems, the cryptography protecting their tamper-proof ledgers may be at risk. Researchers at the University of Sussex estimated in February that a quantum computer with 1.9 billion qubits could essentially crack the encryption safeguarding Bitcoin within a mere 10 minutes. You can be forgiven for thinking that based on the insanely improbable chance of cracking 256 Private Keys that Bitcoin’s cryptography is untouchable. The common approach to breaking encryption is through pattern recognition and brute force attack – throwing as much computer processing power as you can muster to systematically cycle through guesses. RSA-Cryptography utilizes algorithms, codes and keys to securely encrypt private data without interference from third parties or malicious actors such as hackers.

Performance is measured in quantum volume, which considers the number of qubits, how extensively they’re interconnected, noise levels and other factors. Generally speaking, more qubits equals greater quantum volume and faster problem solving. The result of this rather weird technology is that multiple calculations can be made in parallel, greatly cutting down the time required for certain tasks. “Only tens of thousands of these would be used for computation — so-called logical qubits; the rest would be needed for error correction, compensating for decoherence,” he added. According to Chainalysis, about 25% of bitcoins are believed to be lost forever in this manner. While mining bitcoin on an individual computer is no longer viable, there are other cryptocurrencies that you can still mine at home if you’re prepared to put in the effort.

As explained by the MIT Technology Review, these protocols use algorithms to turn data into mathematical functions. Every transaction is recorded into “blocks” using these functions as part of the computationally demanding work of cryptocurrency mining. One point that will be immediately relevant to the discussion is that quantum computers are not universally better than classical computers as a result.

  • The technology’s high barrier to entry explains why the only companies actively working on quantum computing are tech behemoths.
  • This allows you to successfully work out the function-oracle – it “marks” a state with a non-zero amplitude only if it satisfies the condition.
  • One of the most obvious ways to maintain Bitcoin’s security in a future with more powerful quantum computers would be to upgrade the Bitcoin network to a stronger form of encryption — often called “quantum-resistant encryption”.
  • Therefore – is it possible to use quantum computers to mine bitcoins this way?

Quantum computing’s impact on cryptography will also likely spread to the cryptocurrency industry. Every crypto project today uses cryptography to secure its network and validate block transactions, generate a hash number, verify transaction completion, and so on. However, with efficient quantum computers in place, many crypto projects could pose an existential threat if they do not continually advance their security mechanisms in tandem. As a result, we might witness a resurgence of interest in privacy-oriented cryptocurrencies that use the most advanced cryptographic technologies to hide transaction privacy on the blockchain. Advanced quantum computing could also pose a challenge to blockchain protocols related to decentralized finance that custody of billions of dollars worth of users’ digital assets. Similarly, online banking transactions could also be affected, along with digital signatures used to sign cryptocurrency transactions through digital wallets.

Digihost Provides February 2023 Production Update –

Digihost Provides February 2023 Production Update.

Posted: Thu, 02 Mar 2023 11:01:02 GMT [source]

Quantum computing is based on the idea of quantum mechanics, which states that particles exist simultaneously at multiple places or states until they are observed. This means that when we observe any particle, we force it into one state instead of allowing it to be in all states. With quantum computers, scientists can use these strange states to do things like search for information really fast – up to 100 million times faster than regular computer processors. A quantum computer would also solve some important mathematical problems that cannot currently be solved using conventional methods. The fear around quantum computing arises from the fact that an entity that hypothetically controls more than half of the mining network using quantum computers could use that control for any number of nefarious purposes.

How quickly could a quantum computer mine Bitcoin?

Researchers at the University of Sussex estimated in February that a quantum computer with 1.9 billion qubits could essentially crack the encryption safeguarding Bitcoin within a mere 10 minutes. Just 13 million qubits could do the job in about a day.

According to Karmakar, lattice-based solutions are currently in the process of standardizing and should be ready for public use soon. On the other hand, there’s a lot of time left before quantum computers reach a level where they could crack a blockchain,” he says. Imperial College London has also proposed a robust solution that would see the existing Public/Private Key secured under a quantum computing-threatened algorithm combined with an additional quantum-resistant signature pair. Additionally, a flexible GAL could quantum computers mine bitcoin commit-and-delay approach would be used where the user can adjust transaction confirmation time based on their willingness to assume greater potential risk to the quantum hijacking of the Public key during the mining process. Joint research from the University of Sussex, Universal Quantum and Qu&Co published in January 2022 in AVS Quantum Science suggests that quantum computers would have to become a million times faster to break bitcoin’s cryptography.

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