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Does quantum computing pose a threat to the crypto industry?

“Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time. Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers” – BEALL, A (2018)

That was the description given by Beall, A in an article titled “What are quantum computers and how do they work?”.  The author states that the next generation of supercomputers will solve the most difficult problems, breaking down complex processes and models that current computers “ can’t even scratch the surface of”.

There are many tech giants using different approaches to build the so-called “Quantum computer”. The ones that currently lead the race are Google and IBM. IBM describes quantum computers as “computers that could spur the development of new breakthroughs in science, medications to save lives, machine learning methods to diagnose illnesses sooner, materials to make more efficient devices and structures, financial strategies to live well in retirement, and algorithms to quickly direct resources such as ambulances”.

Now, once you know what a quantum computer is, the next key point to tackle is whether or not crypto enthusiasts should be concerned about them? The research so far has proved that they should.

Blockchain transactions are secured with a protocol called “elliptic curve cryptography” (ECC). Digital signatures created by the ECC are also used to encrypt user data on the internet. If a quantum computer has the power to solve ultra-complex mathematical calculations, then it would be able to decipher the algorithms behind ECC.

Many cryptos currently rely on one-way mathematical functions, which could be easily snapped by supercomputers. These one-way functions are straightforward to run on a conventional computer but difficult to calculate in reverse. With ECC not being “quantum-safe”, it could pose a severe risk to the blockchain industry, as any criminal equipped with a quantum computer would have access to digital signatures, thus, gaining access to several ledgers, wallets, and assets. In simple words, those mega digital minds could decrypt user private keys and forge transaction signatures on their behalf.

According to the analyst from the International Journal of Science, Fedorov,A:

Within ten years, quantum computers will be able to calculate the one-way functions, including blockchains, that are used to secure the Internet and financial transactions. Widely deployed one-way encryption will instantly become obsolete”.

On the mining side, the situation isn’t better. If those super computers are not used properly then they could manipulate transaction history and double-spend coins.

The hype behind quantum computing seems to be as strong as Bitcoin’s hype in 2011. According to the International Journal of Science,  the number of investments in the quantum field has soared up to 200% in the last six years.

“By the start of this year, private investors had funded at least 52 quantum-technology companies globally since 2012 — many of them spin-outs from university departments. It finds that, in 2017 and 2018, companies received at least $450 million in private funding — more than four times the $104 million disclosed over the previous two years”

All in all, even if the quantum computer is not yet in the market and the possibility is still far away, quantum security is already important today. The promise of quantum computers overtaking traditional computers is one step closer to reality. Blockchain developers should start working hard on new ways to save crypto.

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