The cryptographic protocols that Bitcoin & Co. are based on, are considered particularly safe. But as technology advances, so does the performance of computers. So what about the security of cyber currencies in the future?
• Fujitsu announces RIKEN, a quantum computer
• “Potential to massively change the computing world”
• Hacker attacks are conceivable within the next ten years
Fujitsu and RIKEN are working on Japan’s first quantum computer
The Japanese technology group Fujitsu and the research institute RIKEN have already previously carried out joint research into supercomputers. In 2011, “K Computer” took first place on the list of the 500 fastest computer systems, according to a press release. With 8,162 petaflops, the supercomputer was able to hold its own against its competitors and also shined with a computing efficiency of 93.0 percent. However, a lot has happened since then, as Fujitsu Chief Technology Officer Vivek Mahajan explained on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” show in October. The computer manufacturer is still working with the Japanese research institute and has set itself the task of developing Japan’s first quantum computer.
Useful for molecular dynamics, economics, medicine and more
The particularly powerful machines are used where supercomputers fail. “Quantum computing has the potential to massively change the world of computing,” Mahajan emphasized on the show. “You can solve problems in molecular dynamics, economics, medicine, Shor’s algorithm and the traveling salesman problem (TSP). These are optimization problems that are not easy to solve.” The machine can be ready for the market as early as next year.
But the competition is not sleeping either: According to “Finbold”, IT researchers at the Australian startup Silicon Quantum Computing were only able to register success in building a quantum computer with an integrated circuit on an atomic scale only a few months ago. And the Chinese internet giant Baidu.com presented in the summer the world’s first superconducting quantum computer that integrates hardware and software, the portal continues.
Crypto market opportunity?
If quantum computing can also revolutionize fields like finance, as Mahajan explained in the CNBC interview, what about the crypto sector? Finbold raised this issue. Therefore, in recent months there has been a lot of discussion about whether quantum computers are more of a curse or a blessing for Bitcoin & Co. The powerful machines could possibly make it easier to mine cyber coins or operate the architectures on which the cryptocurrencies are based.
Threat to Bitcoin & Co.?
However, the machines can become dangerous for the sector when it comes to the coins’ security mechanisms. The cryptographic protocol SHA-256, which e.g. used in crypto veteran Bitcoin, is currently considered unbreakable. The reason: Today’s hardware is simply not strong enough to break through the security protocol that Cointelegraph writes. However, this may change within the next decade. IT security experts expect that by then quantum computers will have developed to such a level that existing encryption protocols can be broken. “Elliptic curve signatures – which power all major blockchains today and have been shown to be vulnerable to quantum computing attacks – will break what is the only authentication mechanism in the system,” Johann Polecsak of blockchain firm QAN Platform told the crypto portal. “Once this mechanism breaks down, it will be literally impossible to tell a legitimate wallet owner from a hacker who has forged a signature.”
Bitcoin secured against quantum attacks – for now
A potential threat to bitcoin from quantum computing has also been investigated by a research group at the University of Sussex, according to a statement from the university. “Modern quantum computers today only have 50-100 qubits,” noted quantum architect Mark Webber, who published the study’s results in January this year. “Our estimated need of 13-300 million physical qubits suggests that Bitcoin should be considered secure against a quantum attack for now, but quantum computing technologies are scaling rapidly, with regular breakthroughs affecting such estimates, making them a very possible scenario within the next 10 years.”
Protection concepts under development
Although the protocols are currently still considered secure, the crypto sector should not rest on its laurels for too long, as Murtaza Merchant from “moneycontrol” also writes. That is why alternative cryptographic technologies are already being intensively researched to secure Bitcoin & Co.’s protocols in the future. Here Merchant mentions, among other things, the Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) technology used on the Iota blockchain. Together with the Japanese technology group Toshiba, the major American bank JPMorgan is also currently working on the quantum key distribution, which must also offer protection against misuse of quantum computers. “The key message remains that the crypto developer community is making every effort to prepare for the risks of quantum computing, although each of these methods has a different strategy to ensure their respective networks are resilient to quantum computing attacks,” Merchant said.
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