Ever since the launch of Bitcoin, we’ve been through four major phases of Blockchain security, from CPU to ASIC chips, with each level raising the bar in terms of hash difficulty and competition between miners.
Though multiple minute threats materialize every day, a severely appalling peril looms not far in the distance: Quantum Computing. Being about 17 Billion times more efficient than a classical computer, Quantum Computers could totally disrupt the regulation of the technology with its speed.
So what’s the big deal?
As compared to classic computers, whose programming uses binary bits in the form of 1’s and 0’s to function, quantum computers work with quantum bits, qubits, which cannot be copied and are in superposition of 0 and 1, meaning they can be both at the same time and run many calculations simultaneously.
The superposition effect is best understood as a particle that can traverse in multiple directions at the same.
(Think of the dual nature of photons, where light could act as both a particle and a wave, at its own will)
In their thesis Quantum Blockchain using entanglement in time, researchers Del Rajan and Professor Matt Visser at Victoria University, New Zealand, say
“A more desirable solution would be an intrinsically quantum blockchain, which is constructed out of quantum information, and whose design is fully integrated into a quantum network”
The authors believe the reliability of any classical blockchain modified against a quantum attack “can be questioned, given the large research effort to find new quantum algorithms, which could potentially undermine such work.”
The Chinese government is planning to open, in 2020, a $10 billion National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences in Hefei as a part of their overall budget for quantum projects. China’s view on computing has pretty much turned it into a new arms race, with around 100,000 hackers on the government payroll. According to a 2016 report, although the US government has cut back on its spending, it’s spending roughly $200m a year on research and development, while the European Commission recently committed €1b on quantum research.
Just like Space and Nuclear frontier, the first country to get to the end will set the rules for years to come. Ascendable quantum computers will be breaking the cryptographic protocols used to secure classical blockchains like toy puzzles, making digital security a serious problem.
Rajan and Visser suggest that “entanglement in time, as opposed to entanglement in space, plays the pivotal role for the quantum benefit over a classical blockchain.”
The quantum benefit they mention is the ability to be ‘tamper-proof’.
The most pivotal benefit of ‘tamper-proof’ security would be quantum key distribution (QKD) wherein a sender uses a cryptic key to send a message, encoded in a quantum signal, and if there be any attempt to intercept, the key would be destroyed.