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Blockchain Is Especially at Risk for Quantum Attacks, Scientists Warn

Blockchain is meant to be secure—but a new paper from quantum computing scientists warns that quickly advancing quantum technology poses a vulnerability for the much-hyped blockchain.

Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoin. It’s found uses as a secure digital ledger and authentication system maintained by its users, rather than by one central authority. But quantum computers may soon have the ability to break its codes.

“Quantum computers pose a risk to any kind of security where public key cryptography is involved,” Alexander Lvovsky, experimental physicist at the University of Oxford, told Gizmodo. “However, blockchains are especially at risk, because they’re completely anonymous. They’re only protected by public key cryptography, whereas banking has human tellers, plastic cards, and ATMs. You have to be a human to use a bank, but you don’t have to be human to use the blockchain.”

A computer processor translates all information into a series of individual units called bits, which can take on one of two values and interact through the rules of logic. Quantum computers are simply a new kind of computer processor whose quantum bits, or qubits, can take on values between zero and one during the calculation and interact with all the mathematics of regular computers, plus new operations based on the physics of subatomic particles. Presumably, these new operations would give quantum computers a leg up over classical computers when it comes to complicated computing tasks like creating advanced artificial intelligence or modeling chemical interactions. But most importantly to this conversation, it has the potential crack the widely used public key cryptography.


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