Posted on 06-23-2020.
A large aerospace contractor Honeywell released a quantum computer that’s heralded as the highest-performing device of the kind to date. The company plans on using Microsoft Azure to make its devices commercially available to a wide audience. Yet, the technology is decades from being a threat to cryptography and the very claim of Honeywell’s device superiority is questioned. In this piece, we look at the key facts surrounding the Honeywell’s breakthrough announcement and explain what it means for cryptocurrencies, modern encryption, and the quantum computing field in general.
“It’s reverse-engineering the private keys which represent the control of your wallet. Your public key is essentially your wallet which holds balances. And I think that’s a real, credible threat. Bitcoin is a public ledger. So you can go out and see which public keys are holding the largest balances and you could go out and target those [...] I think that’s even a near term threat,” Jesse Lund, vice president of blockchain and digital currencies at IBM, told Coindoo.Chief technology officer for IBM data security services Nev Zunic was similarly wary of the risks quantum computers may pose for businesses relying on encryption:
”Companies need to be aware of quantum and the potential risk that it will bring so they can take actions today so that they are not hackable at some point in the life cycle of their products.”Still, it looks like the field is currently nowhere near that point while mining ASICs and cryptography methods evolve together with quantum computers. In 2018, in his article about quantum computing threat to Bitcoin, an American writer Jeffrey Tucker wrote that a potentially dangerous device would take about ten years to develop, but by that time it would already be obsolete. Back when Google researchers broke their “quantum supremacy” news, Bitcoin developer and cryptographer Peter Todd dismissed the threat noting that the problem solved by Google’s computer had nothing to do with breaking cryptography and scaling quantum computers to useful size may get increasingly complicated. https://twitter.com/peterktodd/status/1176313278114476032 Notably, in April 2020, researchers demonstrated a proof-of-concept quantum processor with “hot” qubits that worked under temperatures 15 times higher than most other quantum computers, albeit the temperature change in question is from 0.1 to 1.5 degrees above absolute zero. Developments like this could potentially solve the scaling problem for quantum computers, but the actual applicable technology is still far away. As for the ways to protect systems from the quantum threat, for over a decade scientists have been working on post-quantum cryptography algorithms that will be resistant to the immense computational power of future quantum computers. It is fascinating to watch how quantum computing is getting less like cold fusion and more like the 90’s World Wide Web. Instead of a very much revolutionary technology that remained “a few decades away” since the last century, quantum computers are somewhat available to play with and companies race to get their tech better while attracting hefty investments. But it’s still experimenting, speculating about future applications, and keeping the hype going rather than solving real-world problems. The only thing that is relatively clear is that quantum computers will come in force and it’s nice to have a few years to prepare. ForkLog has previously analyzed the concerns about quantum computing threat after Google’s “quantum supremacy” announcement. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and join our Telegram channel to know what’s up with crypto and why it’s important.