By many accounts, quantum computing (QC), which uses atomic “spin” instead of an electrical charge to represent its binary 1’s and 0’s, is evolving at an exponential rate. If QC is ever realized at scale, it could be a boon for human society, helping to improve crop yields, design better medicines and engineer safer airplanes, among other benefits.
The crypto sector could profit too. Just last week, for instance, a Bank of Canada-commissioned project simulated cryptocurrency adoption among Canadian financial organizations using quantum computing.
“We wanted to test the power of quantum computing on a research case that is hard to solve using classical computing techniques,” said Maryam Haghighi, director of data science at the Bank of Canada, in a press release.
But, others worry that quantum computing, given its extraordinary “brute force” power, could also crack blockchain’s cryptographic structure, which has served Bitcoin (BTC) so well since its inception. Indeed, some say it is only a matter of time before quantum computers will be able to identify the enormous prime numbers that are key constituents of a BTC private key — assuming no countermeasures are developed.
Along these lines, a recently published paper calculated just how much quantum power would be needed to duplicate a BTC private key, i.e., “the number of physical qubits required to break the 256-bit elliptic curve encryption of keys in the Bitcoin network,” as explained by the paper’s authors, who are associated with the University of Sussex.
To be sure, this will be no easy task. Bitcoin’s algorithm that converts public keys to private keys is “one way,” which means that it is easy to generate a public key from a private key but virtually impossible to derive a private key from a public key using present-day computers.
In addition, this would all have to be done in about 10 minutes, the average amount of time that a public key is exposed or vulnerable on the Bitcoin network. It also assumes that the public key is identical to the BTC address, as were most in Bitcoin’s early days before it became common…