At a recent crypto event, Google’s John Martinis addressed the hypothetical threats posed by quantum computing, stating that we are still many years from being able to realize quantum computers. Concerns regarding the threat quantum computing may pose to RSA encryption has been increasingly discussed within the cryptocurrency community in recent years.
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The Perceived Threat Posed by Quantum Computing Is That It May Be Able to Break RSA Encryption and Digital Signatures
Google’s John Martinis recently rejected the notion that quantum computing may pose a direct threat to cryptocurrency in the near future. Speaking at the University of California Santa Barbara as part of the Crypto 2017 event, Martinis says he believes it will take at least a decade until quantum computing may be realized, stating that building such is “really, really hard, way harder than building a classical computer.”
The perceived threat posed by quantum computing is that it may be able to break RSA encryption and digital signatures. “That would mean you could forge transactions, and steal coins,’” stated Bernardo David, a cryptography expert from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Martin Tomlinson, a professor in the Security, Communications and Networking Research Centre at Plymouth University, articulated the hypothetical threat that quantum computing may pose to bitcoin in a 2016 interview with MSN. “If you have a quantum computer then you’re able to just basically calculate the private key from the public key… it would take just a minute or two. So by learning all the private keys using a quantum computer, you’d have access to all the bitcoin that’s available.”
Many Cryptocurrency Developers Are Actively Seeking to Address the Threats Posed by Quantum Computing
In refuting the threat, Martinis has pointed to an instability of quantum bits (qubits) – which are the counterpart to bits in classical computing. Martinis describes qubits as resembling a three-dimensional version of bits, which rather than representing a strict, binary 1 or 0 (as is the case with bits), qubits can simultaneously represent both values in a dynamic array of “superpositions”. As such, Martinis argues that popular perception that competing quantum computing research labs are engaging in a race to produce the most qubits is inaccurate, stating that of equal importance is a lab’s ability to reduce the number of qubit errors that are generated.
Despite the distant nature of the hypothetical threat posed by quantum computing, many cryptocurrency developers are actively seeking to address such. QRL, or Quantum Resistant Ledger, is an altcoin that was developed with evading quantum computing as its principal stated utility. The Russian Quantum Centre has also stated its intention to expand its research in quantum proof blockchain solutions. These endeavors indicate the cryptocurrency community is taking the perceived threat seriously, well before quantum computing has become a reality.