Is Quantum Computing a Threat to Bitcoin?

By Agunbiade Jumoke
9 Min Read

 Quantum computing is an innovative technology in its early stages. However, the crypto community wonders if this technology threatens Bitcoin’s safety, as claimed by some tech enthusiasts. 

Quantum computing is a threat to Bitcoin based on its ability to bridge private keys and crypto encryptions. Its potential to attack Bitcoin mining has also caused developers to implement extra measures to tighten Bitcoin’s security.

What is quantum computing and its relation to cryptocurrency? In this article, we shall discuss the theoretical threats of quantum computing to Bitcoin, emphasize experts’ opinions, and highlight the countermeasures put in place. 

Understanding Quantum Computing

Quantum computing is an aspect of technology that operates based on atomic and subatomic particles, such as photons and electrons. The atomic and subatomic particles can exist in several states simultaneously using qubits or quantum bits.

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In a broader aspect, quantum computing encompasses physics, computer science, and mathematics applications for solving complex problems. This is possible through a mechanical effect of its particles, such as interference and superposition. Thus, quantum computing is used for optimization, artificial intelligence (Al), polymer design, nuclear fusion, machine learning, etc.

Quantum computing

Quantum computing is being deployed by large tech companies, including IBM, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and D-wave Systems.

Google plans to spend several billion dollars to build a quantum computer by 2029 that can perform large-scale business and scientific calculations without errors.

Hartmut Neven – An expert scientist at Google.

Having understood quantum computing and its applications, how does it relate to the Bitcoin’s blockchain network?

Quantum Computer vs. Classical Computer 

Bitcoin relies on classical computing power for its mining procedures. Even though quantum computers are yet to develop fully, research shows they have the potential to solve complex mathematical problems in Bitcoin mining. However, unlike classical computers, quantum computing has a higher chance of exposing Bitcoin’s mining process to quantum hacking by disrupting cryptographic systems.

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One of the top benefits of quantum computing is improved productivity. In 2019, Google proved that a quantum computer could solve a problem in minutes, while a classical computer could take 10,000 years to get it done

Another difference between quantum computing and classical computing is that the former has no processor or memory. Quantum computing performs high task levels, such as creating energy-efficient batteries, while classical computing can be used for day-to-day tasks. However, classical computers are less expensive and easier to build than quantum computers.

Theoretical Threats of Quantum Computing to Bitcoin

There have been ongoing conversations surrounding the potential threats of quantum computing to Bitcoin. 

According to a study conducted by Deloitte, ¼ of the bitcoin in circulation in 2022 were vulnerable to quantum attack. Meanwhile, Gemini’s Global State of Crypto believed that Bitcoin’s high market value in 2021 could be related to the advancement of quantum computing. Thus, the controversy surrounding quantum computing’s threat to Bitcoin is quite complex. A final line can only be drawn when quantum computing has reached its advanced stage. Nevertheless, here are reasons why quantum computing is considered a threat to Bitcoin.

Quantum computing

Cracking the Private Keys of Bitcoin Addresses

Bitcoin private keys are secured with complex cryptography algorithms, which classical computing systems can’t even access. Since quantum computing is built to a high capacity to solve complex algorithms, it may be able to crack the private key from a known public key. This makes Bitcoin vulnerable to cyber attacks, as third parties can access users’ information or data.

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Hacking Bitcoin’s Encryption

Quantum’s algorithms can solve complex problems faster than traditional computers, increasing its tendency to hack the Bitcoin system. Once a quantum computer cracks cryptographic protocols, it can access Bitcoin wallets illegally. In response, developers are working towards creating a solid cryptographic protocol that can withstand quantum attacks.

Countermeasures and Mitigation Strategies to Enhance Bitcoin’s Security

As said earlier, every party should implement necessary countermeasures against a potential quantum computing attack. These measures include upgrading security protocols, implementing encryption standards, and developing resistant algorithms.

Upgrading Security Protocols

Users are encouraged to update their software as developers upgrade security protocols subsequently to address any existing threat. Regular security audits can also help solve this cyber challenge. These include conducting penetration testing, reviewing code, and engaging external auditors.

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Post-quantum Encryption Standards

Post-quantum encryption standards include cryptographic algorithms, collaborative efforts, protecting digital signatures and data privacy. This will further boost Bitcoin’s resilience against quantum computers. Also, the digital signatures scheme will boost the platform’s reliability, increasing people’s trust in the Bitcoin system.

Quantum computing

Using standard encryptions will help to protect users’ privacy or data. Also, innovative ideas from collaborative efforts will help achieve a faster result. You can generate ideas from brilliant developers, cryptographic researchers, and other related professionals.

This article explains all the measures developers can implement to improve blockchain security.

Eliminating Governance Delay 

A cryptocurrency specialist, Itan Barmes, believes the governance consensus of crypto is an issue that should also be addressed. It may take longer for the governance community to agree on preventive measures, which will delay critical implementations. Thus, investors or decision-makers must be educated about the possible dangers of delaying the ecosystem’s protection. 

What is the Fate of Crypto Users?

Even though quantum computing is a threat, research shows it will require many quantum bits to successfully break through Bitcoin’s network. 

A crypto expert, Mark Webber, states that Bitcoin could be vulnerable for 10 minutes to 1 hour during its mining phase. During this period, a large volume of quantum could corrupt the system.

…Breaking bitcoin’s encryption in a 10-minute window would require a quantum computer with 1.9 billion qubits. Cracking it in an hour would require a machine with 317 million qubits. Even allowing for a day, this figure only drops to 13 million qubits.

Mark Webber at the University of Sussex, U.K.

The crypto community may not need to worry about quantum computing, as the largest existing one is just 433 quantum bits from IBM. Experts believe quantum computing will take a decade to attain the required size for cracking the Bitcoin system.

Final Thoughts

Although Bitcoin is safe for the nearest future, there is a need to guard other encrypted data with a higher vulnerability level. This is because an ongoing “encrypt now and decrypt later” strategy is being deployed as an attack on encrypted data. Nevertheless, the timeline surrounding quantum computer’s growth and increased capacity seems vague.

Bitcoin has always been at the forefront of financial development and payments infrastructure, understand its role in a futuristically functioning bitcoin ATM.

However, it doesn’t negate the developers’ duty to fight this possible future attack and implement appropriate measures.

Jumoke Agunbiade is a talented crypto content writer who wants to educate both newbies and experts in the crypto community. With a great passion for contributing to the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency, she publishes insightful and engaging articles for her potential readers.