A serious concern in the computing industry is that when true quantum computers are produced, the principles of encryption will break down due to the dizzyingly superior processing power.
Although blockchain is a far more secure method of transaction than our current financial system, even it will become vulnerable to a brute force attack by a quantum computer. Andersen Cheng, co-founder of U.K. cybersecurity firm Post Quantum, told Newsweek, “Bitcoin will expire the very day the first quantum computer appears.”
A team lead by Evgeny Kiktenko at the Russian Quantum Center in Moscow, though, may have found a way to protect blockchains by fighting fire with fire using quantum mechanics. They are designing a quantum-secured blockchain where each block, hypothetically, is signed by a quantum key rather than a digital one.
They propose that transmitting and encrypting information using quantum particles such as photons, which cannot be copied or meddled with without the particles being destroyed, ensures the blockchain’s safety. The principle is based on Zero-knowledge proofs which allow you to validate information without sharing it.
In recent months Russia has become increasingly interested in blockchain. The central bank is composing new laws focused on cryptocurrencies and is interested in developing one of its own. This research marks a step forward in these efforts because it concerns the protection of such systems.
If the quantum-secured blockchain proves successful it would be hugely beneficial to the rest of the world as well. Blockchain has the potential to do a lot of good for the world by streamlining the transaction system, making it more secure, and ensuring transparency like never before. Countries such as Senegal have developed currencies that are entirely digital, Japan is accepting bitcoin (which uses blockchain) as legal tender in 260,000 stores this summer, and Ukraine is considering using it to combat corruption.
If the advent of quantum computing could be the apocalypse for blockchain, it is therefore crucially important that we begin thinking about how to protect these system before entire countries and currencies could be subject to hacks from the abusers of quantum computers.