The Bitcoin network’s security, which is based on the SHA-256 cryptographic method, is currently unbreakable by a computer as we know it. However, quantum computing has the potential to change this within the next decade.
According to researchers at the University of Sussex, quantum computers will be powerful enough to crack the security that secures Bitcoins within the next decade. The study was first reported in New Scientist.
The SHA-256 algorithm protects Bitcoin’s blockchain, which is effectively a ledger of who owns what.
You might change ownership of a Bitcoin if you cracked the key revealed during Bitcoin transactions. Every Bitcoin transaction is assigned a cryptographic key, which is susceptible for a finite duration, which can range from 10 minutes to an hour to a day, according to the Sussex scientists led by Mark Webber.
According to the researchers, a quantum computer with 1.9 billion qubits would be required to unlock Bitcoin’s encryption in under 10 minutes.
A machine with 317 million qubits would be required to complete the task in under an hour. If you had a whole day to penetrate the security, however, a system with only 13 million qubits would be capable of doing so.
The most powerful quantum computer currently available, created by IBM, has 127 qubits. We’re still a long way from machines with 13 million qubits becoming available, and a system with 317 million or more qubits is a much better bet for practical Bitcoin cracking right now.
According to the Sussex researchers, given the current rate of progress, sufficiently powerful quantum computers would not be achieved for “potentially over a decade,” pushing us well into the 2030s.
Any predicted Bitcoin calamity D-Day is very much a changing target. The Bitcoin network “could nullify this threat by performing a soft fork onto an encryption method that is quantum secure,” according to the scientists, “but there may be serious scaling concerns associated with the switch.”
On the other hand, advances in quantum computing could easily accelerate progress toward hacking Bitcoin security. The possibility of trapped ion-based quantum computers, for example, is mentioned by the researchers.
Indirect attacks are becoming increasingly popular
It’s easy to forget that the current tech news landscape is littered with news of various crypto currencies and exchanges being hacked, or investor or speculator funds being otherwise purloined, while absorbing the huge numbers discussed by the scientists and pondering concepts of quantum supremacy and quantum advantage. How is this possible with such robust encryption in place?
As the recent Wormhole crypto attack taught us, any safe system is only as secure as its weakest point.
Wormhole, one of the most popular bridges between the Ethereum and Solana blockchains, was alleged to have leaked $320 million to hackers earlier today. Wormhole and other blockchain protocols are required by the system for cross-currency transactions and other functions, but they have become a frequent target in recent months.