Most governments think of Bitcoin like people see walking with rocks in their shoes. Recent hacks and ransomware takeovers, where hackers targeted crucial infrastructure like pipelines and demanded they get ransom through Bitcoin, add additional scrutiny to cryptocurrency. There is a lot of regulatory scrutiny on Bitcoin for illegal activities. Plus, the energy of mining Bitcoin has gotten out of control in recent years and gives a direct threat to climate change agendas.
With the rise of quantum computing, governments might soon have a means to clamp down on Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrencies. Information inside “quantum” computers, called qubits, exists in infinite states because of something known as superposition, as there are infinite numbers between 0 and 1, greatly enhancing their speed compared to normal binary computer systems. Governments might possibly decrypt digital currencies or create hash attacks to seize their network for regulation with these machines. Let’s look at this risk.
Bitcoin’s network operates using public key cryptography. It uses both ECDSA and SHA-256 to be exact.
Cracking these two encryption schemes is simple on paper. Someone guesses a potential path or combination, tries it, and it works or it doesn’t. But imagine mapping out all the solutions to the lock and then trying them all at once. This is what a quantum computer can do.
Keep in mind that it would take a 5,000 qubit quantum computer to break Bitcoin’s encryption and solve these private keys. Right now, the top quantum computers can only do 66 qubits as their quantum states are hard to control. So the idea that any government’s quantum supercomputers decrypting a crypto wallet might be the least of your concern for the next 100 years or more.
Should you be concerned?
Fortunately, cryptography is an area that favors the defender over the attacker. The quantum computing worry and dread is far away given its slower development and the Bitcoin network’s ability to change to resist these attacks, like with encryption upgrades. Remember there are more priorities that governments might want to use their quantum machines for.
Author: Scott Dowdy