Roll up, roll up. I am about to dispel some of the most common myths I’ve seen floating around on the internet about quantum computers and whether or not we need to be worried about how it will threaten cryptocurrencies as we know them today.
Strap yourselves in because it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
Myth 1: Operational quantum computers are not going to happen in our lifetime
Wrong! Physicists have made epic strides in recent years working towards building operational quantum computers and they’ve already had some notable breakthroughs. Just a couple of years ago Google’s Sycamore solved a complicated calculation in 200 seconds that would take the supercomputers of today 10,000 YEARS to attempt to solve. Now if that hasn’t blown your mind, I don’t know what will.
The point is, quantum computers already exist. Right now. And the point of reaching operational, everyday quantum supremacy (when quantum computers outperform a traditional computer) is only years away. About 5-10 years, according to the experts.
Myth 2: Public key cryptography is the best security for blockchains
False. Public key cryptography forms the backbone of blockchain security, and whilst it’s doing a great job today, it will absolutely crumble under the thumb of quantum computers.
Under normal circumstances, blockchains are cryptographically secured which is why they have mass appeal. However, this security is highly dependent on the “state of technology” assumption. That is to say, if quantum computers didn’t exist. But when we throw quantum into the mix, contemporary blockchain-based systems become vulnerable and encrypted signatures can be cracked in a matter of seconds. This is because quantum computers can run specific algorithms much faster rendering many encryption techniques we use today obsolete.
Myth 3: Quantum will break blockchain technology
Okay, this is a little bit of a tricky one since there are some divided opinions amongst the experts in the field. But I’ll do my best to argue my case because really it depends on how you look at it.
Quantum computers are becoming incredibly powerful, incredibly quickly. If you think 5-10 years is a long time for this kind of tech, then you’re wrong. However, some experts argue that their capabilities will not break the blockchain. This is down to the fact that there is no hard evidence to suggest that quantum computing can compromise the blockchain system as it exists today. And there’s also the assumption that blockchain will naturally develop new securities as and when quantum is operational.
My issue with this is that once quantum is prevalent, it will be too darn late. Quantum will unravel cryptographic algorithms in minutes. All the evidence we need will be blockchains crumbling around us as their public key encryption algorithms are broken into pieces.
In my opinion, it’s best to prepare for the worst. Thankfully, this is not something general users like myself need to worry about, but the experts definitely need to prepare before it’s too late.
Myth 4: Only conspiracy theorists in tin foil hats think quantum is a problem
In case you didn’t catch on, this is once again not true. So many physicists, cyber security experts and quantum thought leaders are all saying the same thing: quantum is coming, and we need to worry about it now.
Don’t believe me? Here’s from the experts themselves.
Norbert Goffa, Executive Manager at ILCoin says: “If somebody has a quantum-based mining pool, it’s easy to dominate others. […]Today we do not have any quantum-based mining machines. On the other hand, a lot of companies have been working on quantum-based computing technology. We believe that in the next five years it could be real. Maybe less, who knows?” (CoinTelegraph)
David Williams, CEO and Founder of Arqit says: “As with all technological advances, in the wrong hands quantum computing also represents a serious threat. The incredible power of a quantum computer could crack even the most secure encryption like an egg, including methods like public key infrastructure (PKI) which are relied on for a wide variety of critical activities.” (TEISS)
Rakesh Ramachandran, CEO and co-founder of QBRICS Inc. says: “Quantum computers will be redefining cryptography of not only blockchain but wherever there is an application of cryptography including simple things like an online banking website.” (CoinTelegraph)
Myth 5: Nobody has a solution to the quantum threat
Fact is, the world is ready for stronger, simpler encryption to counter not only quantum attacks but also the increasing attacks we’re seeing today.
Luckily, there’s a company out there that has not only recognised this fact, but they are also acting on it. Arqit (I mentioned the CEO earlier) currently has developed a method of encryption that creates unbreakable zero-trust symmetric encryption keys. These are created at scale and endpoints that don’t exist until they’re needed making them super safe and secure. Sign me up!
If you enjoyed reading through my myth-busting, be sure to drop me a comment and let me know of any other myths you’d like to see me tackle in my next blog!