Technology 4 min read

Quantum Computing Won't be Hacking Blockchain

Rendering of a Blockchain Ledger |

Rendering of a Blockchain Ledger |

Right now, quantum computers cost millions of dollars and are only used by governments and big data companies. But as the tech becomes more widely available, will quantum computing be able to hack even the most secure algorithms, like Blockchain?

Quantum computing won't be hacking Blockchain algorithms.Click To Tweet

A Million Times More Powerful

Quantum computers have the potential to map proteins, analyze entire genomes, and behave more intuitively than today’s conventional computers. Why wouldn’t they be able to bust Blockchain?

Blockchain is a public ledger of all bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed. The public record is constantly growing with each bitcoin transaction, and it is chronological.

Quantum computation does not store information using 0s or 1s, also known as bits, like conventional computers.

Instead, they use quantum bits, or qubits, to encode information as 1s or 0s or both at the same time.

Quantum computers can process information at speeds that are millions of times faster than conventional computers. As it stands, they are used mainly by government organizations and massive data companies like Google and Lockheed Martin.

Just not Hacking it

Andreas Antonopoulos |

When asked if there was a possibility of the NSA hacking blockchain, bitcoin expert Andreas Antonopoulos said that he believes that that could never happen.

The first reason has nothing to do with the power of quantum computing itself, and more to do with game theory.

The NSA, he argues, would never hack into bitcoin because by doing so they would then have to reveal how they broke the encryption. Hacking bitcoin would be unsafe on a national security level, and so for now bitcoin remains safe from any governmental interference.

When Qubits are the New Bits

But what about in the future, when people have more access to quantum computing?

We have already covered how tech companies like Canada’s D-Wave, and IBM, are hoping to help illustrate the potential of quantum computing to a larger population by open sourcing some of their new qubit tech.

Antonopoulos explains that still, it would be a challenge even with quantum technology more generally available. The inventor of bitcoin, Satoshi, created two cryptographic systems for security.

The first is elliptic curve manipulation, which is a one way function that uses prime factorization mathematics. It is indeed vulnerable to quantum tech.

The second method of encryption, however, uses hash algorithms, which we do not have algorithms for breaking yet, even in quantum computing.

The eliptic curve is not public until it is claimed. The first time the key to this algorithm is available, has already been used or processed. So if someone were to hack into it, there would be nothing there. It is essentially a key to nothing.

Temporary Solutions

Antonopoulos realizes that his confidence in Blockchain’s security from quantum computing can only last but for so long.

The rate of computation speed and processing is getting faster and more intuitive. Antonopoulos seems to have unwavering trust in the ability of bitcoin, but acknowledges that an upgrade to the encryption system will eventually be necessary. Every encryption has a shelf life of “20 to 30 years,” he explained, and after that all of the code becomes outdated and easily hacked and manipulated.

There are also some who do not completely agree with Antonopoulos. In the comments section of the Antonoupolos’s talk, reddit user @cfromknecht explains that there are flaws to 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. “Whenever you spend bitcoins, you must include a signature that approves the spend, which is done using ECDSA” they explain, “If these signatures can be broken faster than transactions can be confirmed, an attacker could sign a different transaction that spends your coins before the original transaction is ever accepted.”

This is not a concern that we have yet, because quantum computing is still technology of the future. But it is important to anticipate how to adapt our tech and security to the ever advancing future.

Edgy Labs Readers (and especially those that can compromise systems): what do you think? Is bitcoin safe from quantum computing?

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