‘public-key cryptosystems should be replaced’


Professor Massimiliano Sala, of the University of Trento in Italy, recently discussed the future of blockchain technology, as it relates to encryption and quantum computing, with the crew at Ripple as part of the company’s ongoing university lecture series. 

Sala’s discussion focused on the potential threat posed by quantum computers as the technology matures. According to the professor, current encryption methods could be easy for tomorrow’s quantum computers to solve, thus putting entire blockchains at risk.

Source: @Ripple on X.com.

Per Sala:

“Quantum computers could easily solve problems that are foundational to digital signatures, thus potentially undermining the mechanisms that protect users’ assets on blockchain platforms.”

What the professor is referring to is a hypothetical paradigm called “Q-day,” a point at which quantum computers become sufficiently powerful and available for bad actors to break classical encryption methods.

While this would have far-reaching implications for any field where data security is important — including emergency services, infrastructure, banking, and defense — it could theoretically devastate the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain.

Specifically, Sala warns that “all classical public-key cryptosystems should be replaced with counterparts secure against quantum attacks.” The idea here being that a future quantum computer or quantum attack algorithm could crack the encryption on these keys using mathematical brute force.

It bears mention that Bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency and blockchain, would fall under this category.

While there currently exists no practical quantum computer capable of such a feat, governments and science institutions around the globe have been preparing for Q-day as if it’s an eventuality. For his part, Sala says that such an event may not be imminent. However, physicists at dozens of academic and commercial laboratories have demonstrated breakthroughs that have led many in the field to believe such systems could arrive within a matter of years.

Ultimately, Sala says he’s satisfied with the progress being made in the sector and recommends that blockchain developers continue to work with encryption experts who understand the standards and innovations surrounding quantum-proofing modern systems.

Related: Harvard built hacker-proof quantum network in Boston using existing fiber cable