According to the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), while quantum computers are incapable of breaking public key encryption algorithms, public and private entities need to prepare for future threats against cryptography that is not quantum resistant. Most of today’s digital communications, including cryptocurrencies, leverage public key encryption and CISA believes when “quantum computers reach higher levels of computing power and speed, they will be capable of breaking the public key cryptography algorithms that are in use today.”
US Government Warns Nation-States and Private Companies Are Actively Pursuing Quantum Computing Methods That Could Threaten Current Cryptographic Standards
Cryptocurrencies that leverage contemporary encryption techniques could be broken by quantum computers someday, alongside other digital communications like email, messaging services, and online banking. That’s according to a recent CISA report published at the end of August. In the report, the U.S. government agency stresses that a transition towards post-quantum cryptography must be made. CISA’s report explains that it is important to not wait for quantum computers to be used by our adversaries in order to take action. “When the standard is .”
available, it will be possible to migrate smoothly to the post-quantum cryptography standards. It is best to start preparations as soon as possible.
Discussions about whether or not quantum computing will be able to break public key encryption have been taking place since scientists made progress entangling the first pair of quantum bits (qubits) back in 1998. Quantum computers use complex physics to compute powerful equations that relate to modern cryptographic and mathematical systems. Since 1998, super quantum computers have improved with 14 calcium ion qubits entangled in 2011, 16 superconducting qubits in 2018, and 18 entangled qubits in 2018. CISA states that quantum computers can create new opportunities, but they also have negative implications in terms of encryption security.
” Private companies and nation-states are actively seeking the capabilities of quantum computer,” CISA’s report highlights. “Quantum computing opens new opportunities; however, there are potential threats to current cryptographic standards .”
While researchers claim that Bitcoin’s public key technology leverages’multiple quantum-resistant one-way hash functions,’ some blockchain projects prepare for a post-quantum world
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin leverage contemporary encryption methods and it has been said many times over the years that there’s a need to protect cryptocurrencies with post-quantum encryption. In 2020, when the industrial firm Honeywell revealed it built a quantum computer that effectively leverages six effective qubits, crypto supporters started discussing quantum computers’ potential future effects on Bitcoin and 256-bit encryption. Some supporters of digital currencies have begun to prepare for a quantum-computer encryption-breaking event. Cambridge Quantum Computing is in the midst of working with Honeywell on a project that “can be applied to any blockchain network.”
Despite the efforts by cryptographers, some researchers wholeheartedly believe large-scale quantum computers will never come to fruition. Others think the timeline is much closer than people expect and a few scientists have said it could be roughly five years from now. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) thinks 15 years is more reasonable. Meanwhile, Ethereum developers have been researching quantum resistance alongside the Hyperledger Foundation’s distributed ledger project Ursa. Cryptographers preparing for a post-quantum world believe encryption techniques like AES-128 and RSA-2048 will not provide adequate security against quantum computer attacks.
Andreas Antonopoulos: ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’s Little Genius Design Element Is Not an Accident’
The debate has been ongoing for years. Many people believe that the government’s warnings, as well as recent quantum-based technological achievements made by Honeywell and Microsoft, are enough to encourage people to embrace post-quantum cryptography.
Many articles, research reports, and mainstream headlines claim quantum computing will break any contemporary encryption and even forecast traffic jams and accidents well before they happen. However, Bitcoin proponents have said on various occasions that the SHA256 encryption employed by Satoshi’s creation is a formidable foe against a post-quantum world.
In Bitcoin, your public key is not (initially). While you share your bitcoin address with others so that they can send you bitcoins, your bitcoin address is only a hash of your public key, not the public key itself,” software developer and cryptocurrency proponent Chris Pacia wrote in 2014. What does this mean in English? A hash function, a one-way cryptographic function, takes input and converts it into cryptographic output. One-way means that the output cannot be deduced from the input. It’s like encrypting something and then losing the key .”
The software developer’s 2014 paper on the subject concludes:
All of that is a complicated way of saying that while an attacker with a quantum computer could derive the private key from the public key, he couldn’t derive the public key from the bitcoin address since the public key was run through multiple quantum-resistant one-way hash functions.
In a video featuring the bitcoin evangelist Andreas Antonopoulos, he said that using different bitcoin addresses every time is key to bitcoin security. Antonopoulos stated that Satoshi’s two cryptography designs are “absolutely brilliant.” It creates an abstraction layer of the cryptographic algorithm used to generate elliptic curve digital signs, which allows you to perform future upgrades .”
Which means that the past is secure because it is hidden behind the second veil of a different algorithm and the future can be changed because you can present an address that is not the hash of an elliptic curve, or its the hash of a different elliptic curve, or its the hash of a bigger elliptic curve, or its the hash of a signing algorithm that is quantum-resistant that has nothing to do with elliptic curve. You can forwards modify to protect the future. However, the past is hidden so you also have backwards protection.
This story contains tags
Andreas Antonopolous, Andreas Antonopoulos, Bitcoin, Bitcoin network, Brute Force, BTC, Cloud quantum computing, Cryptocurrency, elliptic curve, encryption, End-to-End Encryption, Google, Honeywell, Honeywell Quantum Computer, physics, private keys, Quantum Computers, Quantum computing, Seeds, SHA-256, SHA256, underlying cryptographic algorithm
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Jamie Redman, a journalist and financial tech expert living in Florida, is the News Lead at Bitcoin.com News. Redman has been an active member of the cryptocurrency community since 2011. Redman is passionate about Bitcoin, open-source codes, and decentralized applications. Since September 2015, Redman has written more than 6,000 articles for Bitcoin.com News about the disruptive protocols emerging today.
Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons, Chris Pacia, Bitcoin Not Bombs,
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