By James Willis
With Gabriella Munoz & Andrew Fenton
An international team of researchers has raised fears that Bitcoin could be hacked by powerful quantum computers within a decade.
The research team from Singapore, Australia and France theorize that sophisticated quantum computers could run fast enough to crack the cryptography on the network to steal Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
But all may not be lost with the Melbourne start-up Hcash working on creating protection against quantum hacking by connecting the traditional blockchain with a new structure called Direct Acyclic Graph (DAG).
The researchers behind the project, Associate Professor Gavin Brennen of Macquarie University; Dr Miklos Santha, Director of Research at CNRS and Centre for Quantum Science and Technology; Associate Professor Troy Lee of Nanyang Technological University, and Senior Lecturer Marco Tomamichel of the University of Technology Sydney, are working towards a way to protect the protocols that secure countless transactions and information, currently worth over $160B USD.
Coins that adopt the technology could theoretically remain secure when the era of quantum computers begins.
Unlike today’s computers, which process information in binary bits, quantum computers use a more advanced bit. This allows them to perform incredibly complex calculations at speeds currently unimaginable and solve certain classes of problems that are beyond the grasp of today’s most advanced super computers.
A crucial aspect of Bitcoin is its security. Bitcoins have two important features that prevent them from being stolen or copied. Both are based on cryptographic protocols that are hard to break.
But the advanced quantum computers will be able to worm their way into the system and access, not only Bitcoins, but any private keys that have become compromised.
The danger will be aimed at transactions that have been broadcast in the network but not yet processed, a routine that, using Bitcoin, takes about 10 minutes.
A hacker with a quantum computer will be able to change the transaction before the legitimate one is processed.
Hcash and its researchers aren’t the only ones racing to ensure this sort of thing can’t happen.
Scientists from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand recently published a paper in which they propose making blockchain behave like a time machine to keep it safe.
How is that possible? Through entanglement, a phenomenon that Einstein described as ‘spooky action at a distance’, because during the process two or more particles instantly affect each other. Records stored as photons in a block will influence other photons of that block in the past, and create a quantum blockchain that would be impossible to hack.
“In this scenario, a hacker cannot tamper with any photon encoding records of the past, since those photons no longer exist in the current time — they already got absorbed,” explained Charles Q. Choi in Spectrum. “At best, a hacker can attempt to tamper with the most recent photon, the most current block, and successfully doing so would invalidate that block, informing others it got hacked.”
So fear not, scientists are devising at least two methods to prevent hackers from firing up a quantum computer to steal all your crypto. We just hope at least one of them is working by 2027, when an estimated 10% of the global GPD could be stored with blockchain technology.
James Willis, Gabriella Munoz and Andrew Fenton are writers for Nauticus Blockchain.
You can learn more about Nauticus here.