Inside Quantum Technology

Here’s How Quantum Computers Will Really Affect Cryptocurrencies

(Forbes) Dr. Joël Alwen, the chief cryptographer of Wickr, the encrypted chat app, is interviewed here about post-quantum encryption and how evolving encryption standards will affect cryptocurrencies. Alwen’s major points summarized:

1- Quantum computers vs encryption — lots of hype now, but very little of substance.
Commercially available quantum computers now cannot meaningfully dent the encryption standards cryptocurrencies are built on.
2- Quantum computer and encryption experts need to bridge the gap between one another.
Quantum computer and encryption experts are not communicating with one another as much as they should.

3- Breaking encryption not only modifies the present but also the past.
Encryption standards being diluted now is not only a risk for the future, but also an attack on the conversations and transactions people will have to remain private in the past as well.

4- Proof-of-stake vs. proof-of-work doesn’t matter here: all digital signatures are vulnerable.
Everything here breaks if the digital signatures are no longer valid — anybody with access to public keys could then spend amounts on other people’s behalf.

5- Cryptocurrencies can be proactive towards post-quantum encryption.
Post-quantum encryption is certainly possible, and a shift towards it can and should be proactive. Since encryption is such a critical part of cryptocurrencies, there is hope that the community will be more agile than traditional industries on this point.

6- Encryption standards will have to evolve to face quantum computers.
It is likely that instead of thinking of how to upgrade the number of keys used or a gradual change, that post-quantum encryption will require dabbling into categories of problems that haven’t been used in classical encryption.

7- Hardware wallets offer the best security in principle now for keys.
The fact that they’re hard to upgrade is a problem, but it’s much better than complex devices like laptops and cell phones in terms of the security and focus accorded to the private key.

8-To keep up with cryptography, it’s best to consult some resources.
In order to keep up with cryptography and its challenges, MIT and Stanford open courses are a good place to start to get the basic terminology. There is for example, an MIT Cryptography and Cryptanalysis course on MIT OpenCourseWare and similar free Stanford Online courses.

The interviewer and journalist of this article is Rober Huang who was one of the first writers in 2014 to write about the intersection of cryptocurrencies in remittance payments and drug policy with VentureBeat and TechCrunch. Huang is a HODLer of Ethereum and Bitcoin, and I’ve built several mini-projects with them for fun.

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