During the next decade, more than 30 different technologies will advance the humanity transition to the futuristic living. There are numerous ways and technological ideas, while the blockchain is only one of them. Even now it is quite popular and is getting adapted to more and more industries over time. Still, far from the worldwide level though.
Even though one might think that the blockchain technology is as safe as it can get, it is a popular myth. The nearest future will bring a highly potential threat, that will make the security advantages of the newly-adopted tech useless to the superior computing power.
Shadow of the quantum apocalypse
What drives the blockchain tech superiority? One of many things is decentralization. The future’s quantum computing technologies will hurt the blockchain ledgers and put the safety of the information and any data under a big question.
Recent advanced steps made by giants such as Google, Intel, and several other research groups indicate that computers with previously unimaginable power will finally be developed much faster than many scientists think. For example, the D-Wave company announced recently that their quantum computer successfully models a quantum system.
Yet, the most progress had already been made regarding the hardware development, but it does not mean that the quantum tech companies do not pay attention to the software market too.
The emergence of the quantum computing indeed poses a serious threat to the known forms of program security such as key cryptography which empowers the blockchain apps.
The performance of the future
Long story short — modern cryptography uses a pair of keys to encrypt specific information — a public and a private one. The most advanced cryptography system link the public and private keys — the factor of a number is used here, and that is the product of two incredibly large prime numbers. To determine the private key from the public key, the factors of the outcome of primes need to be known.
It is known that the classic computer can test a trillion keys in a second, and it can take up to 785 million times longer than the roughly 14 billion years the universe has existed already so far due to the size of the prime numbers in question. Here lies the problem and here is the point where the quantum computers step in.
The great increase in processing power can create unbelievable possibilities and computing options to generate a private key from the corresponding public key. In case it would be possible to implement, even the strongest forms of traditional public key cryptography would be vulnerable.
Fact is, the quantum computing technologies rely on quantum physics and have much more potential power than any classic computer type. The blockchain is a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed, its public record is constantly growing with each Bitcoin transaction, and it is chronological.
How is it achieved? Quantum computing takes advantage of quantum bits or “qubits” that can exist in any superposition of values between 0 and 1 and can, therefore, process much more information than just 0 or 1, which is the limit of classical computing systems. Of course, the capacity to compute using qubits renders quantum computers many orders of magnitude faster than current existing computers. The qubits problem, however, is that they are so inherently unstable.
Google announced that its D-Wave computer had already outperformed a traditional PC, which makes it one hundred million times faster. “What a D-Wave does in a second would take a conventional computer 10,000 years to do,” according to Hartmut Nevan, the director of engineering at Google, during a news conference to announce the results.
Moreover, there certain existing quantum computing algorithms among which is the “Shor’s algorithm”– it allows the quick factoring of large primes. We realize that a working prototype of the quantum computer could break today’s public key cryptography and the digital signatures used in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It is all in theory so far, of course. That would mean, in other words, that one could forge transactions and steal coins.
Still, speaking about the modern day, the existing quantum computers which capable of speedy number factoring are not present, but no doubt, the work is in progress big time. The future of public key cryptography is surely under threat in this case, as the blockchain industry and Bitcoin itself pretty much, heavily relies on it. The vulnerability, in this case, is not a forecast, but a distant upcoming reality.
It is known, that the inventor of Bitcoin, Satoshi, created two cryptographic systems for advanced security measures. The first is an elliptic curve manipulation, which is a one-way function that uses prime factorization mathematics, and it is the most vulnerable to quantum tech in future. The second method of encryption, as it is known, uses the hash algorithms, the algorithms for breaking which are not presented yet even in quantum computing.
What’s the answer?
No doubt, the countermeasures had also been in development for a long time.
The question arises, therefore — if the blockchain security is impossible in quantum Systems-powered future and whether the advent of quantum computing influence the overall blockchain technology spread and makes it outdated?
It is known, that the NSA had announced its innovative quantum-resistant cryptographic systems back in 2015. The top world cryptographers are working on quantum-resistant cryptography, and there are already blockchain projects working to implement this feature.
The question arises here — what makes the actual “post-quantum” cryptography useful? When private keys are generated from public keys in ways that are much more mathematically complex than traditional prime factorization. To be clear, quantum computing threatens all computer security systems that rely on public key cryptography, not just blockchain. All security systems, including blockchain systems, need to consider post-quantum cryptography to maintain data security for their systems. No doubt, the easiest and most efficient way to deal with it would be to replace traditional systems with blockchain systems that implement quantum-resistant cryptography.
There are also major flaws regarding the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA), and it is very possible that quantum computers will be able to work faster than the transactions, therefore beating the encryption. Up to date, this is not a today’s concern.
However, is important to realize the way of adaptation of the currently existing technologies and security means before the quantum era arrives on our doorstep.