Without quantum security, our blockchain future is uncertain


The news that two teams of Chinese scientists have achieved a quantum advantage – a technical term for when a computer can perform functions beyond those of a classic computer – could be the signal that we have really entered a new era. While Google’s 54-qubit quantum processor, Sycamore, became the first well-known example of early-stage quantum computing, the latest news from the University of Science and Technology of China at Hefei is the best evidence yet that we have crossed the information rubicon.

But despite many reasons to be excited about these developments, there are also reasons to be concerned. As we all long for the day when we can predict traffic jams, write animal testing in the history books, or determine the likelihood of developing cancer and then come up with a unique treatment – all in seconds – its tremendous power has a dark side.

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For a society so dependent on the Internet, perhaps most terrifyingly, quantum computing is putting all of our digital infrastructures at risk. Our modern Internet is based on cryptography⁠ – the use of codes and keys to secure private communication and storage of data. But for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH), for which this concept is fundamental, a sufficiently powerful quantum computer could mean the theft of billions in values ​​or the destruction of an entire blockchain. Since digital signatures can suddenly be easily forged, the concept of “owning” the wallet will seem curious.

Related: In conversation about the digital future: quantum computing and cryptography

When I first pioneered digital currency in the late 1980s, quantum computers were just a theoretical thesis. While we were all aware of its inevitable arrival (those who work in tech are often aware of the future racing at breakneck speed) in a world we hadn’t even seen the first web browser, We haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about what even then seemed like a deep future technology.

Vulnerability to Quantum Computing

However, times have changed. Over the next three decades, the cryptocurrency should be refined and store a value of nearly $ 3 trillion. An analysis by Deloitte found that over 25% of all bitcoins could be stolen in a single attack, which amounts to nearly $ 300 billion at the time of writing. That would be three thousand times more lucrative than the next best heist. Given that 10% of global GDP is expected to be held in cryptocurrency by 2025, this vulnerability is quickly becoming a concern. Quantum computing is not just around the corner, we’ve never been more vulnerable to it.

Furthermore, history shows us that we should fear not only hackers, cyber-terrorists and criminal organizations, but governments too. The revelations of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden over the past decade showed the world what the most powerful government in the world could (and would) do if no one was looking. Authoritarian powers like Russia and China have sophisticated methods of forcing and controlling their people. Quantum computers would only charge their tyranny.

While we already know a few examples of early quantum computing, it would be foolish to bet that a state-level actor could get their hands on a sophisticated quantum system before a private organization steps in. And when they get this technology, they won’t just come for your bitcoin. They read your messages and every email, IM, or document you’ve ever sent using ancient cryptography. now accessible with their new quantum master key.

Is there a solution?

The puzzle with which we move forward is how to protect ourselves from their devastating potential. My team and I on the xx network have spent the past few years pioneering our quantum secure blockchain to solve this problem. Adding another layer of data protection with our flagship DApp xx messenger to destroy metadata is another way to protect yourself from quantum-armed malicious actors. There will be other solutions from different innovators, they just don’t come fast enough.

There are reasons to believe that the coming revolution of the quantum computer will not torpedo our chances of a new, decentralized world based on the blockchain. On the one hand, the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the USA is already considering 69 potential new methods for “post-quantum cryptography” and expects a standard draft by 2024, which could then be rolled out on the Internet.

There are also very few cryptographic techniques that would be completely superfluous in a post-quantum world. The key agreement protocol and digital signatures are obviously the most vulnerable, and innovations like lattice-based cryptography offer us ready-made solutions for implementation in the next generation of blockchain technology, and even stronger techniques are known.

While a great quantum computer like the one I painted in your nightmares isn’t there yet, hubris and the boundless optimism of our community (usually an asset) could have us exposed when it finally arrives. In recent years, not only has cryptocurrency seen remarkable adoption, but the view that decentralization can be a solution to so many of the problems we find in our societies today. We win the fight. It would be a great shame to lose the war for not taking seriously this collective threat to our security and privacy.

If we do this, we can secure the fundamental promise of blockchain technology and reinvigorate its appeal. That sounds like something to be happy about now.

This article does not provide investment advice or recommendations. Every step of investing and trading involves risk, and readers should do their own research when making a decision.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

David Chaum is one of the first blockchain researchers and a world-famous cryptographer and data protection officer. Dr. Chaum, known as “The Godfather of Privacy”, first proposed a solution to protect metadata with mixed cascade networks in 1979. In 1982, his dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley, became the first known proposal for a blockchain protocol. Dr. Chaum developed eCash, the first digital currency, and made numerous contributions to secure voting systems in the 1990s. Today Dr. Chaum founder of Elixxir, Praxxis and the xx network, which combines decades of research and contributions in the field of cryptography and data protection to provide cutting-edge blockchain solutions.