Rumors of bitcoin’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. According to a site tracking “bitcoin obituaries,” the media has proclaimed the seven-year-old cryptocurrency dead more than 100 times, yet a recent resurgence has led to a tripling in bitcoin’s price over the last year. It has survived price crashes, cyber heists and community infighting, but bitcoin’s biggest threat may still be lying dormant: quantum computers.
Since they were first theorized by the physicist Richard Feynman in 1982, quantum computers have promised to bring about a new era of computing. It is only relatively recently that theory has translated into significant real-world advances, with the likes of Google, NASA and the CIA working towards building a quantum computer. Computer scientists are now warning that the arrival of the ultra-powerful machines will cripple current encryption methods and as a result bring a close to the great bitcoin experiment—collapsing the technological foundations that bitcoin is built upon.
“Bitcoin is definitely not quantum computer proof,” Andersen Cheng, co-founder of U.K. cybersecurity firm Post Quantum, tells Newsweek. “Bitcoin will expire the very day the first quantum computer appears.”