There are a number of reasons why people see Blockchain technology and its associated cryptocurrencies as the future of money. It is decentralized and removed from any authority, but it is also as secure a technology.
However, its cryptographic nature, which makes it secure, could be under threat from a technology that is also emerging, that of quantum computers.
These cryptographic protocols are hard to crack and are the basis of why the Blockchain works as it is easy for the input to move one direction, but not the other way when it comes to classical computers.
The factorization equation, which makes reverse engineering difficult for classical computers, is easily achieved by quantum computers, which are already in development.
Where Quantum computers can launch a real attack on the Blockchain or on a popular cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, is when it comes to deciphering a Private key based on a public key.
When it comes to securing one’s Bitcoin, the idea is that the owner generates two numbers- a private key and a public key that is freely handed out. The public key can be easily generated from the private key, but not vice versa.
A signature can be used to verify that the owner holds the private key, without revealing the private key, using a technique known as an elliptic curve signature scheme.
The only way to cheat this system is to calculate the private key using the public key, which is extremely hard with conventional computers. But with a quantum computer, it is easy.
“The elliptic curve signature scheme used by Bitcoin is much more at risk and could be completely broken by a quantum computer as early as 2027,” Divesh Aggarwal, at the National University of Singapore, said.
Still time to change
The thing is, despite this attack which is still relatively a long way off considering Bitcoin is less than 10 years old, there is always a chance for the technology to evolve as others do around it.
Bitcoin and others have ample time to adjust so that any threat to its cryptographic nature can be addressed and solved before it does indeed become a problem.