The blockchain system behind Bitcoin might become vulnerable to attacks from quantum computers, according to research conducted recently by a group of Australian experts in collaboration with a team from Singapore. The study suggests that Bitcoin accounts and all new transactions can be hacked by that time.
The researchers conclude that the proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm used by the largest cryptocurrency gives relatively effective protection against quantum computers. That’s mainly due to ASIC miners, which are much faster than the quantum computers of the near future are projected to be.
However, the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) utilized by Bitcoin will probably become vulnerable and might be cracked by a quantum computer within ten years. The bad news is that this estimation represents the best-case scenario.
The research was carried out by the following experts:
Divesh Aggarwal – Professor at National University of Singapore;
Gavin K. Brennen – Associate Professor at Macquarie University, Sydney;
Troy Lee – Associate Professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore;
Miklos Santha – Professor at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore;
Marco Tomamichel – from the Centre for Quantum Software and Information at the University of Technology Sydney, and part of the Quantum Resistant Coin group of researchers.
The report says:
“The key cryptographic protocols used to secure the internet and financial transactions of today are all susceptible to attack by the development of a sufficiently large quantum computer. One particular area at risk are cryptocurrencies, a market currently worth over 150 billion USD.”
While Bitcoin mining will remain safe, the weak point of the cryptocurrency is ECDSA.
Dr. Marco Tomamichel said: “Many existing Bitcoin accounts and all new transactions will be at risk within ten years, so we need to start thinking about solutions now.”
Dr. Tomamichel is a member of Quantum Resistant Coin - a group of researchers who are trying to develop security methods for cryptocurrencies using their experience in quantum technologies and cryptography. The team is working in collaboration with blockchain company Hyperchain.
“It is a very exciting time to be working in quantum information now that simple quantum machines, like the Google and IBM devices, are a reality. Understandably, there is a lot of nervousness in cryptocurrency communities about whether their digital assets can resist future attacks by very fast quantum computers.”
Today, Bitcoin remains the most targeted cryptocurrency by cybercriminals, according to Kaspersky Lab and other sources. However, these attacks are not directly linked to Bitcoin’s blockchain.