The battle of the century is approaching in blockchain cyberspace, says cryptoceptor Zhiyuan Sun in an article in Motley Fool
Most governments cannot stand Bitcoin. In recent extortionist attacks targeting vulnerable infrastructures, ransoms have been demanded in the form of Bitcoin, making cryptocurrencies even more under investigation. There are also plenty of regulatory investigations into the use of Bitcoin for illicit activities and money laundering. In addition, the energy use of Bitcoin mining has slipped out of control in recent years and poses a direct threat to climate change initiatives. With quantum supercomputers, governments could potentially decode digital currencies, or use these machines to launch hash attacks to take over their network for a regulatory outage.
Before understanding the quantum vulnerability of Bitcoin to government oversight, first we need to understand how the network works – call attention to Zhiyuan Sun. Let’s look at the first basic analogy for encrypting digital currencies: Draw two points on a circle and mark them with A and B. Then draw a series of intermediate points on the circle (C, D, E, etc.) and draw a line through all such points from A to B. Points A and B represent the public key of the individual’s wallet address, while the number of steps required to get from A to B represents the individual’s private key. For an outside observer, an almost infinite number of routes can lead from A to B, and figuring out the right route with conventional computers would take until the end of time. The cryptography of Bitcoin is similar, except that it uses elliptical curves to protect wallets, which are more difficult to crack, using a so-called digital signature algorithm (ECDSA) for elliptical curves.
Next, let’s look at this analogy in to understand the vulnerability of the attack! First, try unlocking a three-digit combination lock without knowing the password. The puzzle itself (known as SHA-256) is not complicated at all, but it takes a lot of effort to figure out the right combination. This is similar to the way miners check for obscured Bitcoin transactions, except that the network uses a secure procedure to ensure the integrity of the transactions. The difference is that the difficulty is variable and can reach ridiculously large numbers.
Let us return to the two examples. Hacking both ECDSA and SHA-256 is a simple but repetitive task: someone guesses a possible path or combination, tries, and is either right or wrong. But imagine that we are able to map out all the possible solutions to the combination lock and then try all of them at once. A quantum computer knows this.
Keep in mind that a 5000 qubit quantum computer is required to crack Bitcoin encryption and decrypt private keys. Currently, the most advanced quantum computers have only reached 66 qubits because their quantum state is very difficult to control. So the idea that government quantum computers are decrypting your cryptographic wallets looks like you don’t have to worry in the least for the next 100 years, Sun says.
Fortunately, cryptography is an area that is predominantly favors the defender rather than the attacker. Fear and uncertainty about quantum computing is far enough away, given its slow development and the ability of the Bitcoin network to evolve to withstand attacks, for example by upgrading encryption. There are other priorities for which governments want to use quantum computers, as many cases of hacking and extortion still take place outside the world of Bitcoin.
However, the same cannot be said for other less secure altcoins, which has a lower network hash rate than Bitcoin. This would mean that even a less sophisticated quantum computer would be able to launch 51 percent hash attacks against them (i.e., they would only have to control 51 percent of network mining performance). Lastly, don’t be surprised if such a computer falls into the hands of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and sooner rather than later begins to shut down some regulatory irregular cryptocurrencies.
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