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Cryptography is the key staple of cryptocurrencies. It is the underlying principle behind blockchain technology that makes the technology extremely secure. There are several cryptographic technologies that make up the essence of cryptocurrencies. But what will happen if this staple cryptocurrency feature falls apart? As secure as blockchain technology is, it is not perfect. The biggest weakness for cryptography is quantum computing.

That’s because quantum computers have the ability to unwind much of the cryptography that underlies how data moves through the internet. A fully developed quantum computer would theoretically be able to solve certain problems much faster than classical computers. They may be able to solve problems which are not practically feasible on classical computers.

And although quantum computers are a futuristic technology that is still far away from fruition, quantum security is already important today!

Quantum computers

Quantum computers have been a science fiction for a while now, but progress is made in the field with every passing day. The technology is researched and developed by the world’s best scientists. As of 2018, the development of an actual quantum computer is still in its earliest stage, but experiments have been carried out. However because of how powerful quantum computers potentially are, researchers are taking the safe approach.

Theoretical and practical research will continue with many national governments and military agencies funding quantum computing research in additional effort to develop the technology further. Quantum computers are developed for many purposes including civilian, business, trade, national security and more. Most people who are interested in blockchain technology should know that quantum computers can make crypto useless.

The cryptocurrency industry must evolve, develop and integrate quantum computing resistance in their structure. Researchers are already looking for ways to restructure cryptocurrency systems to be resistant to quantum computing. It is an important issue because all cryptocurrencies are vulnerable to this problem.

Researchers from the Financial Crypto 2018 conference were concerned about the many possibilities and effects that quantum computers will have. Debates on the subject have taken place and many cryptocurrency experts are already talking about possible solutions. A Sun Yat-sen University researcher and the co-author of a new study on Anonymous Post-Quantum Cryptocash – Fangguo Zhang, said:

“Cryptocurrencies are tightly associated with user’s money, and that is an extremely sensitive subject. As a cryptographer, we have to take precautions on the fast development of quantum computing such that if it becomes strong enough, we are able to update cryptocurrency systems as soon as possible.”

Cryptocurrency digital signatures

The most vulnerable part of the system is the digital signature algorithms. These algorithms generate the private and the public keys that cryptocurrency holders use to store and transfer cryptocurrencies. Of course not all cryptocurrencies are the same. Some use blockchain technology and other use other technologies.

Public keys can be shown to other users, because they are the method that allows you to receive cryptocurrencies. On the other hand, the private key allows you to spend your tokens and should be kept private. Today’s computers can’t mathematically generate a private key from a public key. But quantum computers can theoretically be so advanced that they could link private and public keys.

Because of this, much of the researching is aiming to replace cryptocurrency digital algorithms. Fangguo Zhang and other researchers have designed and are working on a cryptocurrency concept that uses a different cryptography method called “ideal lattice”. Zhang’s concept of “ideal lattices” is quantum resistant and is full of extra security and privacy features.

According to the paper work published by the researchers, these privacy features include stealth addresses and unlinkable ring signatures. The ring signatures technology has already been implemented in the best privacy token – Monero. If you want to read about why Monero is the best privacy and security token click this article.

According to Zhang, a new cryptocurrency should be created, due to the complexity of the new system. Zhang said that they don’t have plans on creating a new token. However some students are testing the system and are working with the researchers. After all, the goal is to improve cryptocurrency security and replace or improve the cryptocurrency digital signature algorithm so that it can endure quantum computing.

Possible and existing solutions

Since there is already a lot of interest and investments in both cryptocurrencies and quantum computer research, making a new quantum resistant cryptocurrency won’t be the best solution. The most optimal solution will be to restructure existing cryptocurrency systems to be quantum resistant and researchers are already focused on finding the solution.

The research assistant for the Imperial College of London, Alexei Zamyatin, has published recently a new paperwork on the subject, although it is not fully finished. Researchers are working on ways to educate users on the problem so that they are prepared for the changes. If the best solution is to develop new quantum resistant addresses, users will be responsible to switch to them.

Alexei Zamyatin believes in another way to force users to securely move their cryptocurrencies to resistant addresses. This method is through a backwards-compatible soft fork. Last November in a major cryptographic conference, Zamyatin mentioned a concept with a huge number of alternative quantum-resistant signatures.

Saarland University’s Tim Ruffing posted an idea to a leading Bitcoin developer mailing list. He described it as a “two-step” transaction process that hides the user’s public key until the coins are delivered to a quantum-ready address.

With this in mind, many researchers think that making cryptocurrencies resistant to quantum computers will not be as hard as many think. On top of that some believe that cryptocurrencies will be the smallest of problems when quantum computers come. As Zamyatin said:

“We will have other problems if quantum computers actually come up.”

Although quantum computers are a futuristic technology and no one can say exactly when they will come to fruition, some even debate that the technology isn’t possible at all. Still the majority of researchers are working on a solution and they understand that quantum security is already important today, before quantum computers are even available.

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