Quantum Computing in 2018
With the rapid evolution of computer science, better and more powerful computers are being invented every day. Example of such computers is the quantum computers which are very powerful. They employ new approaches in processing information contrary to the normal computers.
Quantum computers are based on quantum mechanics which is based on using complex laws of nature or natural behavior to run new algorithms to process information. And they do a very holistic approach.
Quantum computer and cryptocurrency
Crypto currencies such as Bitcoin are normally decentralized and free from the interference of any government, thus making them very independent. This peer-to-peer network is core mechanism behind the blockchain. This has made these digital currencies to become too popular with their value rising very steeply.
The crypto currencies use cryptography technique so as to ensure that the transactions are secure, verify transfers and prevent additional units from being created. In simple terms, cryptography helps in creating and scrutinizing protocols so as to prevent the public or any other third party from gaining access to the communication channel and decrypting and reading private messages.
The modern cryptography is greatly centered on the use of mathematical theories as well as computer science.
Cryptography technology has been evolving over the years. Initially, in the early years, the technique was primarily used in encrypting linguistic and language patterns. However, it has slowly shifted to the use of mathematics, information technology, statistics, computational complexity, abstract algebra. Also, cryptography deals with active intelligent as well as malevolent opposition
Lately, there are also research going on whether there is any relationship between cryptographic problems and quantum computer. Actually, there are already concerns being raised that quantum computers seem to pose a serious threat to the security of most of the crypto currencies especially Bitcoin.
The threat posed by quantum computers to crypto currencies
Most Crypto currencies require that the owner/user acquires a private key which he/she should use to access (transferring or spending) his crypto currencies. In addition, the owner also gets a public key which is published. The public key can be generated from the private key but vice versa is impossible at the moment.
In this case the entire security lies on the private keys. If peradventure a “generous” cracks how to generates the private key from the published public key, then the entire security will be compromised.
Considering that we are now in the age of quantum computers, I guess it is it could be a matter of time until malicious parties try to abuse the code and generate the private key using the published public keys.
However, since the crypto currency field especially Bitcoin is not new to attacks even by hackers, and they still manage to get back on their feet, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Although that will depend on whether they will carry out stun actions towards making them more secure. The good news, there is technology and even coins that can already stand against quantum technology. Also, lets not forget that cryptocurrency is by not the most vital part of the society entirely dependant on digital technologies. Thinks about banks, insurance companies, national security, and you can find yourself going on for a while.
What are the likely solutions
The protocols used in the public key cryptography have to be changed to ensure that they are resistant to any attack from quantum computers. If you take Ethereum for example, it is currently using elliptic curve cryptography which is not safe at all from quantum computer attacks. Another example is the Bitcoin which uses SHA-256 & RIPEMD-160 hashing functions and Elliptic Curve DSA, which are still not safe from quantum computer attacks.
But since quantum computers were made by people, the same people can also certainly protect the cryptos against the quantum computers!
Researchers have also proposed some remedies of dealing with the quantum computers. These include the use of a lattice-based cryptography scheme, multivariate cryptography and code-based cryptography.
In the lattice-based cryptography scheme the private key is assigned a lattice point and the public key is assigned a random point in space. In this case it would be very hard to locate the single point is a lattice of the private key and also very hard to locate the single point in space of the public key. This will end up making both the private and private keys more secure.
With the code based cryptography, a linear error-correcting code is used to make the produce the public key. Then only the legitimate users can use the code to remove the error to gain access. This makes the public key more secure from direct public use.
The multivariate cryptography on the other hand involves use of difficult multivariate simultaneous equations. Since it is difficult to solve the multivariate equations, the private key thus becomes safe.
Quantum Key Distribution(QKD)
This is also another technology which the cryptocurrency developers can look into. It is essentially a mode of communication which is very secure and it uses both cryptographic protocol and quantum mechanics. It is a tested technology with an Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute rolling out the first quantum key distribution protected network in the U.S. with an intention of linking its headquarters located in Columbus with its other manufacturing shops in Ohio and Dublin. This goes a long way to prove that the QKD technology can be used to secure the cryptographic protocols.
Assuming quantum computing doesn’t get delayed until blockchain cryptography finds mass adoption, the community has to find solutions that will, both provide a safety facade for the markets not to freak out and at the same time avoid dedicating to many resources to a doubtfully plausible threat.
Hopefully, by the time quantum computing arrives blockchain technology will have enough traction to make the leap into the new computing realities.