As technology keeps developing and improving, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology are becoming more popular and see new applications created around them every day. However, technology advancements also mean that new security threats arise regularly for Bitcoin and other digital currencies. This is the case with quantum computers, which have been talked about extensively in the recent years as they expose a real concern for crypto enthusiasts.
In order to understand the risks, we need to first understand what quantum computers are and what they can do. Quantum Computers are, simply put, very powerful computers who are able to execute computer programs at an extremely rapid pace by shuffling through millions of possible combination of 0s and 1s. These computers use quantum mechanics to do so, hence their name. Over the recent years, there has been a lot of money poured into research and development for these new forms of computers.IBM Q is one of the most popular ones currently being built and developed by the IT giant. They are much faster than traditional computers that we have become accustomed to. That also means that these “supercomputers” are able to solve very complicated mathematical problems and cryptographic “puzzles”. This is where the problem lies for Bitcoin.
As you may know, Bitcoin and its blockchain are encrypted thanks to cryptography. Individuals are able to store their assets in Bitcoin wallets, which are technically storing them on the blockchain. They are only accessible, and therefore protected, with something called public and private keys. These are cryptographic keys that are required to “unlock” these wallets and access the funds stored on the blockchain. For now, these keys are extremely difficult to hack and require a lot of time and a lot of computing power. We can even consider them 99% unhackable. However, quantum computers will pose a real threat to Bitcoin as they have enough power and the cryptographic ability to hack and discover public and private keys. This means that with a large enough quantum computer, one could hack into wallets and steal funds from thousands of Bitcoin owners.
This is very worrisome for Bitcoin owners and for the crypto space in general. However, there are some points that need to be put in perspective. In my opinion, quantum computers do pose a real threat to not only Bitcoin but to major cryptocurrencies and to the blockchain, but I think this threat can be mitigated in the years to come.
First, the quantum computing technology is currently too young and too expensive to operate. It won’t be accessible for all for years to come. It will be too costly to maintain and impractical to carry an attack on Bitcoin.
Second, it is expected to take a long time, by 2027, to be able to hack those Bitcoin keys. By that time, Bitcoin will have the ability to develop its security and counter these attacks. Bitcoin was developed in such a way that it is updatable and modifiable, and therefore, the code will be improved to avoid hacks.
Moreover, we can mention that there are some coins and tokens that are already resistant to quantum computers and we can expect more of them coming in the future. We can also look forward to projects that make blockchains unpenetrable and resistant to any kind of threat.
In conclusion, quantum computing is worrisome for the crypto space but probably not as much as we think.