How secure will Bitcoin be if quantum computing gets more advanced?

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The World Economic Forum (WEF) in its latest report, November 2020, highlighted the great threat the development of quantum computing in the future had to the asymmetric cryptography system, which is actually used by the Bitcoin wallet.

"Quantum computing threatens the asymmetric cryptography that is widely used today. In fact, companies and the digital economy are very dependent on this cryptographic system, "said WEF in its report.

According to the WEF, a number of current studies have not been able to design a powerful antidote to quantum computing becoming increasingly sophisticated.

"If quantum computing is capable of cutting through asymmetric cryptographic systems before the digital ecosystem has reached the transition required to counteract it, that will create a major cybersecurity risk," said WEF.

How serious the problem is, WEF strongly recommends several major countries to work together to design and create powerful systems to counteract the advantages of quantum computing.

The discourse on the threat of computing and quantum computing in the realm of Bitcoin is not new. But what was quite prominent and had become a byword was last September 2019.

Google at that time claimed to have built a quantum computer capable of solving previously impossible mathematical calculations. The announcement resulted in a number of parties feeling that Bitcoin could be a target. Google calls it "Quantum Supremacy" because it is currently the highest quantum computing power.

Details of Google's "quantum supremacy," meaning their solution was capable of performing calculations that ordinary computers could not be uploaded to the NASA website before being retracted.

Google's quantum computer is said to be capable of performing 10,000 years of computation in just 200 seconds, potentially breaking the encryption that is the cornerstone of the Bitcoin network's security.

Google's Bristlecone quantum computer processor.

Bitcoin, cryptography, and encryption rely on complex mathematical problems and their fundamentals to form the basis of the Internet and digital communications beliefs. A computer powerful enough can solve these problems quickly to hack not only Bitcoin but the encryption on which the Internet is based.

The boom in Bitcoin investors and the price of Bitcoin in recent years have made many worried that their crypto wealth is being threatened by quantum computers. However, there are steps that can be taken to prevent Google or other quantum computers from cracking Bitcoin and digital communications.

Charles Hayter, chief executive of crypto data site CryptoCompare, at that time explained, “Crypto can be renewed with anti-quantum technology. It's just a continuation of the old feud between hackers and encrypts. "

According to some experts, Google is far from succeeding in building a quantum computer that could threaten Bitcoin or other encryption. Dragos Ilie, a researcher in quantum computing, said Google's computer only has 53 qubits.

Qubits or quantum bits are basic units of quantum information that use the properties of a quantum system, such as the polarization of photons or electron spins, whereas ordinary computers store and process a series of data in the form of 1 and 0.

"In order to have an impact on Bitcoin or other financial systems, it takes at least 1,500 qubits and the system must be able to unify everything," explained Ilie.

Google isn't even as advanced as many thought, with follow-up reports calling the announcement of quantum supremacy being scrapped because it hasn't been confirmed. On the other hand, building large quantum computers is a tough challenge according to Ilie.

“As the qubits increase, the system becomes more and more unstable, but researchers can look for various approaches to solve this problem. Maybe there are ways to reduce the problem, but we are still far from being able to solve Bitcoin, ”added Ilie.

Prominent Bitcoin scholar Andreas Antonopoulos is not worried about the power of quantum computers that are said to threaten the blockchain network, including Bitcoin.

“Does Google's quantum computer have an impact on the mining mechanism for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in general? The answer is no! Quantum Supremacy, as Google calls it, only shows practical applications that quantum computers are indeed capable of solving a number of very complex and specific mathematical problems (certain classes). These mathematical problems are not the same as the problems we are currently facing in the context of cryptography on the blockchain, "Andreas emphasized in an interview with Cointelegraph, Thursday (10/10/2019).

Andreas opinion seems to contradict the opinion of other experts regarding Google's quantum computer.

Stewart Allan, COO of IonQ, a company that makes quantum computers, thinks it will be 10 years before post-quantum cryptography becomes an important issue. According to him, at that time someone will find a blockchain that is quantum resistant. However, other parties say that this problem needs more attention from now on.

Apart from Bitcoin, quantum computing has the potential to be a threat to data security. Rob Campbell of Med Cybersecurity says government agencies often have far more sophisticated technology than the general public. The government may already have quantum computing, but it's keeping it a secret.

Campbell explained that if any opposition government agency was collecting encrypted data now, they could decrypt it at a later date when there was already capable of quantum computing power. This will make quantum-resistant cryptography a national security issue and become a very important global issue.

Quantum computing is like a double-edged sword, on the one hand, it can be exploited by malicious hackers, but it can be used by cryptographers as well for information security. Information that is quantum-resistant will be resistant to a man in middle attacks, where hackers intercept the transmission of information without having to decrypt the key.

A number of blockchain projects claim to have implemented quantum-resistant techniques in their systems, such as Quantum Resistant Ledger, IOTA, HyperCash, and Starkware. However, until there are quantum-resistant algorithms that are proven and accepted by the academic community, there is no guarantee that blockchain projects will actually be quantum-resistant.

For a decentralized blockchain to be updated, there must be approval from the majority of the community. In addition, in the event of a quantum resilient blockchain update, wallets that are not quantum resilient will be vulnerable. This includes the 1 million Bitcoin stored in the wallet of Bitcoin creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, if not transferred to a quantum-resistant wallet.

This potential threat emphasizes that even though quantum computing will emerge in 10 years according to estimates, it remains a priority to research quantum resilient technologies to reduce the risk of a data security disaster.

A more aggressive prediction came from Divesh Aggarwal and friends. Through research, they predict Bitcoin can be hacked easily with quantum computers by 2027. They even say that the elliptic curve signature scheme on Bitcoin is the most vulnerable to hack.

What is a quantum computer?

Quantum computers are computers that apply the quantum mechanical theory. The basis is that energy does not move continuously, but is discrete, aka "packets" or quanta. As a science, quantum mechanics focus on the levels of atoms and subatoms (particles: electrons, protons, and neutrons) to an element. This is where an element, for example, hydrogen is made part of the quantum computer processor. Well, the quantum properties of particles can be used to represent data and data structures and to perform computational operations with these data.

Comparison between bit and qubit.

Ordinary computer processors rely on important components, namely transistors, which are semiconducting. The base material is usually Germanium, Silicon, or Gallium Arsenide. Computer information is stored with the notation 1 and 0 aka binary numbers (binary digits/bits). The number represents a true/false or on/off state. For example, the decimal number 1 (one) is stored with the binary number 000 and the decimal number 7 is stored with the binary number 111. It is the combination of a number of binary numbers that produce data and information on the computer.

So, while on a quantum computer the notation 1 and 0 can be processed at the same time, not alternately. Here the smallest unit of information is called a qubit (quantum bit) and the ability to process more information is called a "quantum superposition". That's why the data and information on a quantum computer last thousands of times that of an ordinary computer.

A number of quantum computers today use a modification of the Shor algorithm invented by Peter Shor in 1994 to make private keys even more difficult to crack.

Miruna Rosca said a quantum computer that is quite powerful at this time is Google's Bristlecone quantum computer. The computer is still 72 qubits strong. He said it takes the power of 4,000 qubits to be able to hack cryptographic algorithms owned by humans today, such as SHA256 which is embedded in the Bitcoin blockchain.

Actually, this is not the only time the discourse is about the threat of quantum computers to the blockchain, especially Bitcoin.

Some time ago Alexander Lvovsky, Physics Specialist at the University of Oxford revealed a similar thing.

“Quantum computers are a threat to all kinds of digital security, where there is the implementation of public-key cryptography in them. Blockchain is also unavoidable because there is an aspect of anonymity to it. The blockchain is only protected by public-key cryptography. In the management of ordinary banking services there is still human involvement, such as through the use of debit cards and ATMs, on the blockchain you don't need to be a human being to be able to use it, "he told Gizmodo.

Lvovsky's point is that aspects of automation are commonplace on the blockchain. And it is capable of running without a human presence, but it is sufficient to run with a robot in the form of software.

IBM also did not forget to convey to the public. At the IBM Think 2019 event, IBM Vice President Blockchain and Digital Money Jesse Lund said quantum computers could reveal the private keys that control crypto wallets by hacking public keys. Lund stated, "Your public key is becoming extremely vulnerable and I think this is an imminent and real threat."

Bitcoin is an open ledger, so anyone can see which public key holds the most funds. An individual can target a public key with large funds, then use a quantum computer to reveal the private key of the public key, added Lund.

It is thought that quantum computers can be used to reverse engineer the private keys of their public-key pairs, leaving all forms of public-key cryptography vulnerable. Lund believes at least half of all existing blockchains are open to this attack.

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