Quantum Computing Rises: Is it time to bid blockchain a goodbye?

Quantum Computing

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Murmurs are going around on how new technology is going to take over blockchain’s layers of encryption effortlessly. According to the study quantum computing may eventually settle the cryptographic structure of blockchains. However, both technologies are new and innovative in their features. To simplify, Blockchain is a platform for performing a transparent and hassle-free transaction, and quantum computing is the next-generation computing machine which will make the work more fast and easy.

Quantum computing: A threat for Blockchain?

Quantum computing includes quantum mechanical theory to speed up quantum computers ability to solve complex mathematical equations in a fraction of time which classic computers would take a lot of time. Classical computers (regular computers) rely on binary bits that range in one of two states, 1 and 0, whereas, quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits. The state of superposition, which is necessary to perform calculations is hard to achieve and also difficult to maintain. Physicists use laser and microwaves to put qubits in the working state and then make use of an array of techniques to preserve it from fluctuations.  Current quantum computers are not accurately errored free due to the instability of working conditions which disintegrates in a process called decoherence before most operations can be executed.

Quantum computational power is determined by how many qubits a machine can simultaneously control. Quantum computing makes use of subatomic particles. These particles will be present in more than one state at one particular time. This unique feature results in the fast speed of the machine as compared to that of a regular machine.  They can store a bulk amount of data with lesser consumption of energy. Quantum processors are million times faster than the processors we use now. Starting with just two qubits achieved in the first experiment in the late 1990s, the powerful computer today is operated by Google, which uses up to 72 qubits.

A mathematical structure designed to secure data through asymmetric cryptography and the hash function is a blockchain. If the quantum computing advances then it would be a threat to blockchain integrity as the quantum technology in the hands of hackers may primarily target emerging payment infrastructures including cryptocurrency.

Quantum computers and blockchain

The idea of blockchain’s unchangeable nature and unmatched security is widely accepted. It triggers the public’s trust in digital assets and encourages mass acceptance. However, the launch of quantum computing could risk the integrity of public-key cryptography, which is the backbone of blockchain security.

The range of quantum computers application is vast; the one most important in the context of blockchain technology is the capacity to run algorithms much faster than the existing supercomputers. Among the widely discussed presumed use cases the famous one is Shor’s Algorithm for factor decomposition, which could render many existing encryption techniques outdated.

More on Shor’s Algorithm

Asymmetric cryptography uses multi-digit numbers as public and private keys and hashes them into a set of smaller numbers. The proficiency of this system centers on the fact that the current computer is unable to find the prime factors of these numbers and crack the algorithm. Shor’s theoretical algorithm is programmed in a way to find prime factors by reducing the steps it takes, which threatens the integrity of public and private keys. It is predicted that it would take a normal computer340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 basic operations to find the private key linked to a public key while it would take a quantum computer 2,097,152 calculations to crack the private key.

Group of Researchers from the Russian Quantum Center noted their observation in journal Nature— one possible risk stems from the fact that blockchain security heavily depends on one-way mathematical functions (the ones which are easy to run but challenging to reverse calculate).  These functions are used in generating digital signatures and validate transactions on the record.

Precautions are better than cure

If a criminal is prepared with a functional quantum device, he would be able to perform reverse calculations very faster, which would allow them to forge signatures, impersonate other users and gain access to digital assets. The criminal could take over the process of updating the record and manipulate transaction history.

The researchers advised that the architects of encrypted systems should start taking precautions against this threat almost immediately. Replacing conventional digital signatures with quantum-resistant cryptography is one of the solutions the researchers suggested. This type of security measure is specially designed to endure an attack from a suitably powerful quantum computer. Another solution, the researches put forth would only be available with the introduction of a quantum internet, which is yet to be achieved in future years. This forthcoming wireless communication architecture, based on a connection between remote intertwined quantum particles, will unlock a wealth of new blockchain models and designs.

Blockchain combined with quantum computing

The researchers Del Rajan and Matt Viser from the Victoria University in New Zealand came up with an idea to combine quantum computing with blockchain. They suggested preceding the use of quantum cryptography and leap straight to making blockchain a quantum-based system itself. Their model showcases a blockchain-based on qubits intertwined not just in space but also in real-time. The attempt to altogether alter the record of transactions, encoded by the history of a single particle’s states over time, would be impossible without destroying the particle completely. However, manufacturing this model is impossible until the quantum internet is introduced.

The solutions provided may be decades away, but a lot of development in quantum computing and quantum cryptography is happening right now. The views of the experts differed on quantum computing being an immediate threat to the blockchain.

Blockchain community still have time to upgrade their system which is free from an attack from quantum computing. The company is working on a private key. The key generation process is very complicated and makes use of complex equations. The other solution is to introduce Private Blockchain. Private Blockchain requires permission to join the network. The user must be invited to participate and validate by the network. This will make the system fool-proof and free from the attack of hackers.

To conclude, these are just the glimpse of both Blockchain and quantum computing. According to experts, it may take about five to ten years before quantum computers become a threat to the blockchain. Other research predicts that it will take 10,000 qubits to run Shor’s Algorithm. Leading companies like Microsoft, IBM and Google are racing to achieve the 50 qubit computing capabilities. The most powerful quantum computer currently is Canadin Firm; DWave’s quantum computer packs 512 qubits of quantum computing but has a high rate of errors. It will take 20-30 years for quantum computing to achieve 4,000 qubits, with a long way to go to achieve 10,000 qubits. We still have to wait for quantum computers to be there up and operating. Similarly, the developers need to work on Blockchain to make it safer and away from hackers. Rather than debating who’s best, we must appreciate the updating systems and take advantage of them.

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