Hello World - Blockchain Security in the Quantum Age

Hello World - Blockchain Security in the Quantum Age

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Just recently (21/Sep 2019) NASA published a scientific paper on its New Technological Reports (NTR’s) platform discussing Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor. Specifically, Quantum Supremacy is the potential ability of quantum computing devices to solve problems that classical computers practically cannot. The subject was Google’s reported successful use of a quantum computer (QC). It is claimed that Google have used a QC to perform a calculation that would overwhelm the world’s best conventional supercomputer. The claim is that what the QC had completed in a little over 3 minutes would take a supercomputer 10,000 years to reproduce.

This is mind bogglingly exciting as well as a little scary. In a world built on pre-quantum software and security measures the idea that a computer will be able to run software over 1,500,000,000 times faster than today’s super computers (if the above figures are corroborated) poses a lot of questions.

The idea that Quantum powered decoding/decryption programs would be able to go head to head with today’s security measures probably at first glance, appears to be a one-sided competition. However, if we dig a little deeper, things may not be as minacious as feared.

Many of today’s encryption programs utilise a multi-layered security system. An example of this is the Bitcoin architecture which uses the ECDSA (Elliptical Curve Digital Signature Algorithm) Algorithm for digital signature along with the SHA-256 (Secure Hash Algorithm) Algorithm providing a further level of security by way of a Hash function. This level of encryption, whilst produced on non-quantum computers, provides a formidable security barrier.

To put this into perspective when assessing the QC’s computing speed’s threat to cybersecurity we need to look at the field depth of the encryption system. In a recent test 64bit encryption that would take a non-quantum (classic) computer around a year to break was deciphered by a QC in a reported 7.3 milliseconds. Pretty fast if the adjudicator’s finger on the stopwatch was timely. However, a brute force attack on a SHA-256 encryption would require 2x10 to the power of 200 operations. (if you prefer to see your numbers unfettered this is it:

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

... and now add the same number of zero's again and double it!

Even though the quantum computer is reputed to routinely work 100million times faster than a classic computer the colossal computation process would still outlast any number of grandfather clocks.

That said, whilst the above discussed depth of encryption is enormous, and the prospect of breaking it unrealistic, it is not fully immune to a full-frontal quantum attack. However, a successful hack as discussed above would only produce access to the public key and the private key known only to the person generating it would present a further security barrier.

The threat of breached security is further diminished when the protected data is stored in a Blockchain. Blockchains have embedded consensus Algorithms which impose their own validation requirements. The central tenet of Blockchain is that no transaction can enter the Ledger without validation, the consensus Algorithms also prevent corruption of the data already entered into the Blockchain. This feature adds a significant further level of security as the de-centralised nature of the Blockchain would require the majority of nodes (ie. more than 50%) within the Blockchain to be similarly hacked/corrupted before the stored information could be accessed/manipulated.

Where does that leave us today? Whilst quantum technology looks likely to become an available resource sometime soon, its anticipated launch power is nowhere near sufficient to overwhelm current cutting-edge security systems. Further, as this new technology grows it is hard not to imagine that security systems will evolve alongside it.

Looking forward, Chainlify believes that a fully developed Blockchain system with multi-layered encrypted security will continue to provide a secure data storage/transactional environment for the foreseeable future.

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By Glyn Craig on 02 October, 2019


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