When Bitcoin BTC/USD introduced a peer-to-peer (P2P) lending system in 2009 facilitated by its native token, the world was awe-inspired — and suspicious — over the merits of a decentralized financial system.
More than a decade later, BTC has not only emerged as the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization but has also spurred the adoption of blockchain technology across multiple industries. It has also spawned a number of applications, such as decentralized finance (DeFi), which are revolutionizing the way humans transact.
Yet, with the rise of a new breed of quantum computers, the dominance of blockchain-powered protocols like that of Bitcoin could be challenged in the near future.
What Is Quantum Computing?
While traditional computers use bits to process and store information by switching between 0 and 1, quantum computers use qubits that can simultaneously exist in both states.
These computers can be millions of times faster than the best supercomputers today.
With this kind of computing supremacy, malicious entities could exploit the advantages of quantum computing to launch attacks on protocols like Bitcoin, in an attempt to steal funds from the millions of cryptocurrency users that transact via the internet today.
By employing storage attacks or transit attacks, bad actors could attack vulnerable wallet addresses or even target transactions.
At the same time, they are being processed on the blockchain. Storage attacks are seemingly a bigger possibility since it is dependent on how securely tokens are being held by various users, while transit attacks are beyond the realm of a current lot of quantum computers in existence today.
Supremacy Under Attack?
Currently, Bitcoin and other blockchain protocols aren’t particularly susceptible to quantum computing attacks. That's because quantum computers haven’t progressed beyond 100 qubits in terms of processing capacity. This limits the possibility of an attack on a protocol as large and secure as that of Bitcoin.
But technology is progressing at a rapid pace, and quantum computers with more than a million qubits could become a reality within the next decade.
With that kind of computing power, the Bitcoin network in its current form would be severely compromised by cybercriminals.
Projects Thwarting Future Quantum Computing Attacks
There are a number of projects that are working to tweak or introduce new architectures that would make protocols even more secure.
Indeed, blockchain technology is continuously evolving as developers and entrepreneurs strive to innovate.
Moving away from elliptic curve cryptography (ECC), which focuses on a set of public and private keys to encrypt data, will be one of the most immediate tasks at hand for crypto developers.
Recognizing the need for more robust and attack-proof solutions, a number of projects are exploring alternate cryptographic methods to secure the next generation of Bitcoin and other protocols.
Some notable examples of quantum-resistant technologies include:
- The block-lattice method as adopted by the QAN Platform
- Directed acyclic graph (DAG) technology as seen in the Iota blockchain
- And quantum key distribution (QKD), developed by Toshiba TOSYY and JPMorgan Chase & Co. JPM
Each of these methods has adopted different approaches to ensure that their respective networks can resist quantum computing attacks.
But the key message remains: the crypto developer community would be wise to prepare for any risks posed by quantum computing.
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