The way we think about encryption is starting to change, and NIST is working on making cryptography resistant to quantum computing. New cryptographic algorithms are needed, and Bitcoin developers need to start preparing for the future as well.
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Quantum Computing Threatens Cryptography Algorithms
Technology is advancing at an accelerated pace, and the future of quantum computing is looking brighter every month. But at the same time, this presents a new threat to existing cryptographic standards, as quantum computing is starting to separate the current algorithms. As is always the case in these scenarios, it is important to stay ahead of the curve, rather than solving problems after they arise.
For every advancement made in the world of technology, new issues arise that need to be addressed. Quantum computing is a significant milestone in the history of computational power, but it is also a powerful force that should not be wielded without considering the consequences. One of these consequences results in addressing the current cryptography standards and coming up with new solutions.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, known as NIST, is embarking on a trip into the new era of cryptography. Securing digital information relies on unbreakable cryptographic algorithms, and the time has come to step up the algorithms used to protect sensitive information. If the necessary measures are not taken in time, banking information, personal details, and consumer data will not be safe from prying eyes for much longer.
NIST has launched their community initiative — disguised as a friendly competition — to come up with new cryptographic algorithms that are resistant to quantum computing. Keeping in mind how the best standard cryptographic algorithms are open-source, this community effort can go a long way in developing new solutions. That being said, new proposals will have to be tested thoroughly by prominent mathematicians and developers.
Very few people are aware of how trillion-dollar businesses rely upon security provided by cryptography, among which are Internet banking and e-commerce service providers. But they are not the only ones, as anonymity and privacy providers such as Tor and VPN companies use cryptographic algorithms in their business models and technologies as well.
Cryptography is the last line of defense between consumer data and prying eyes. Don’t be mistaken in thinking only hackers would take advantage of encryption that can be breached with quantum computing, though, as various governments are in favor of weakening encryption standards as well.
The cryptographic algorithms used in this day and age make it computationally infeasible for digital computers to factorise the integer elements. However, since quantum computers are much more powerful than digital computers, they can find prime factors of large numbers. The increased potential power of a quantum computer can even be used to defeat standard cryptographic algorithms.
So What About Bitcoin Cryptography?
The potential effect of quantum computing on Bitcoin cryptography has been touched upon multiple times throughout the years. Back in 2013, it became apparent that Bitcoin addresses that have both received and spent funds are not immune from quantum computing threats. In fact, the public key — which is visible on the blockchain — can be used to derive the private key for that address.
Bitcoin’s cryptography is based on the elliptic curve algorithm, one of the many algorithms which could – theoretically – be broken by quantum computers with relative ease. Bitcoin enthusiasts can only hope the developers are well aware of the threats quantum computing poses, and take appropriate actions as soon as possible.
What are your thoughts on the effect of quantum computing on cryptographic algorithms? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of NIST, Shutterstock