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Could Quantum Computers Defeat Bitcoin? Not So Fast

quantum mechanics

Because quantum computers could one day crack the cryptography that provides protection to crypto wallets, they are viewed as a looming existential threat. Few sections of the cryptocurrency community are worried about the implications of quantum computers on the whole ecosystem. Quantum computers, with their far superior processing power, can potentially throw Bitcoin mining off balance. Also, there are concerns about Bitcoin not being quantum computer proof and anyone with access to one of the devices can potentially backtrack the public key to deduce private keys and steal bitcoin from wallets.


The bottom line is, while blockchains appear safe for now from quantum computing, developers will need to stay vigilant and be ready to take new steps to ensure this remains true. One of the most overlooked problems of blockchain systems is their ability to resist the fast-evolving machines known as quantum computers. Jeremy Van der Haegen is a Belgian freelance journalist who covers business XLM and politics of the Asia-Pacific, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain technology.

Cryptocurrency Mining

Before we attempt to understand quantum computing’s impact on the Bitcoin network, let us first develop a strong understanding of quantum computing. As explained earlier, quantum computing is typically used to process extremely complex transactions or calculations that are technologically feasible for classical computers. However, quantum computing’s tech architecture makes it possible to process several transactions or calculations that are orders of magnitude higher than that of classical computers. Quantum computers are several times faster than classical computers and even supercomputers.

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Now that we have discussed some of the benefits of quantum computing let us shift our focus to the perceived threats posed by this nascent technology. We will find answers to these pressing questions and more in the following sections. Bitcoin’s blockchain has never been hacked, and zero counterfeit currency has ever been uttered on the network. Minor bugs do appear from time to time, and there exist theoretical security concerns that might threaten Bitcoin today or in the future. However, one key is an encrypted number between one and 2256, or 115 quattuorvigintillion .

Quantum Computing and Blockchain: What You Need to Know

Phoenix is a blockchain enthusiast, aspiring smart contract developer, and a student of computer science. Joining Screen Rant’s Tech team in 2022 and leveraging his own technical understanding of the subjects, he reports on the most interesting events and advancements of the fast-paced world of the blockchain industry, Web3, and the emerging Metaverse. I’m not very familiar with encryption and quantum algorithms, so please correct me if I’m wrong.

Current computers, often referred to as classical computers, consist of bits that are either 1s or 0s, but not both. Instead of bits, quantum computers consist of qbits, which, due to a concept called quantum superpositioning, allows these bits to simultaneously exist in both states at the same time. In addition, unlike traditional bits, qbits can influence each other in a process called quantum entanglement, which creates one, large quantum state for the entire computing system. Each time a qbit is added, the number of potential states of the computer doubles, giving these computers massive computational abilities compared to classical computers. Instead of analyzing a set of problems one by one like a traditional supercomputer, quantum computers can analyze huge amounts of potential problems and answers simultaneously. These computers use the powers of quantum physics to minimize the amount of potential wrong answers incredibly quickly while honing in on potentially correct answers with incredible speed.

In contrast, quantum computing has great potential to solve some of the big, hairy problems that science and technology present, but it’s not necessarily a good tool to create consumer applications used by everyday people. 8-qubit and 16-qubit systems are already somewhat accessible to the public (for example, the IBM Q experience, which allows for cloud-based quantum computing), and the biggest quantum computer ever constructed to-date is, to my knowledge, 72-qubits. Grover’s algorithm, which can only be implemented on a quantum computer, is particularly suited for breaking SHA256, the encryption algorithm behind bitcoin mining. Visualisation of Shor’s algorithm IMG SourceIn theory, quantum computers also pose a potential threat to the integrity of Proof-of-Work blockchains like Bitcoin. Not only would they receive mining rewards, they could create an alternate series of blocks with forged transactions. Furthermore, miners with classical computers would give up as their operations ceased to be economical, resulting in a far more centralized blockchain.


The of upgrading existing private keys, however, could create new vulnerabilities. That’s because, according to Groth, new keys will be generated by the system after successfully implementing post-quantum encryption. To activate a switch to the new key, users will have to sign for approval with their old one. Although researchers like Groth don’t classify quantum computers as an immediate threat to blockchain technology, experimentation with solutions is nevertheless ongoing. “Cryptographers do reflect on what a suitable countermeasure would look like,” Groth says.

Quantum Computers vs. Crypto Mining: Separating Facts From Fiction

While classical computers use transistors to process information, quantum computers tap qubits which can be 1 or 0 at the same time, thus giving them more versatility compared to transistors. The level of quantum computing is directly related to the number of qubits linked together on the network. In contrast, linking together more transistors in the case of classical computers only increases power linearly. The bitcoin network is kept secure by computers known as miners that use a cryptographic algorithm called SHA-256, which was created by the US National Security Agency. Breaking this code is essentially impossible for ordinary computers, but quantum computers, which can exploit the properties of quantum physics to speed up some calculations, could theoretically crack it open.

Meanwhile, lattice-based cryptography offers another potential solution to quantum attacks. This type of encryption adds mathematical noise that could even confuse a futuristic supercomputer. “Quantum computers could find a needle in a haystack by constantly doubling the probability of finding it.

Can Supercomputers mine Bitcoin?

For one operation of this kind, you need about 1300 CPU operations. One peta FLOP/s is therefore about equivalent to 770 GH/s which would earn you about 200$ a year, not even including power. Not worth the effort. Bitcoin mining is not profitable on any kind of general-purpose computer, not even a supercomputer.

With today’s difficulty rate but much more advanced systems, it may take a solo miner about 10 minutes to mine one bitcoin. Bitcoin is considered hack-proof because the Bitcoin blockchain is constantly reviewed by the entire network. The exhaustive Bitcoin Threat Model by JWWeatherman calls these Human Threats. No qubits are required, just the types of techniques already employed by secret services, such as infiltrating the Bitcoin Core Team or simply controlling the market for Bitcoin Mining hardware.

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Cryptographic algorithms aim to protect information behind entropy – random codes – which humans are terrible at producing. Cryptographic algorithms generally follow two approaches – symmetric and asymmetric. Bitcoin is mined using a special kit called the Application Specific Integration Circuits , designed specifically for mining rigs. Additionally, since the circuits employ ‘puzzle friendliness,’ each input is expected to return a good output; if not, it is detected by the entire system, and the miner is notified. He calculated that 1 BTC is produced every 10 minutes – when in reality there are 12.5 BTC generated in each block.

However, custom-designed ASIC how fast could a quantum computer mine bitcoin hardware is far more efficient than quantum computers.There’s virtually no risk of them staging a 51-percent attack anytime soon, and as QCs grow in power, faster ASICs are likely to keep pace. A public key can be quickly generated from a private one, but going the other way is virtually impossible. A classical computer would have to perform up to 2128—about 340 billion billion quadrillion—calculations over billions of years to discover the private key that matches your Bitcoin public key. Clearly, that it will be interesting to check out what opportunities can quantum computation theory and quantum technology give to the blockchain technology. For instance, there were several proposals on empowering Bitcoin Electronic Cash System with quantum technologies (see, e.g. ), as well as on possible attacks on this system . In the paper we propose a quantum empowering of this technology and show how to speed-up the mining procedure using the modified Grover’s algorithm.

Webber’s team calculated that breaking bitcoin’s encryption in a 10-minute window would require a quantum computer with 1.9 billion qubits, while cracking it in an hour would require a machine with 317 million qubits. A quantum computer will be much more efficient and faster, so it will basically take up most of the hash rate in the network and be the major voting power. No classical computers would be able to compete with that, so decentralization would be broken until quantum computers are widely available. By the way, a similar amount of physical qubits would be needed to completely crack ECDSA secp256k1 with Shor. The difference is that Shor’s algo is polynomial so that once secp256k1 is broken it is useless to increase keysize, while with Grover it is sufficient to double hashsize to obtain again reasonable mining times . Quantum computing is based on the idea of quantum mechanics, which states that particles exist simultaneously at multiple places or states until they are observed.

  • Bitcoin is mined using a special kit called the Application Specific Integration Circuits , designed specifically for mining rigs.
  • The second problem of applying the Grover algorithm to the mining problem is the increase in the zero amplitudes.
  • Following the adoption of a CBDC, physical cash would likely disappear in the years that follow.
  • This is because a blockchain’s integrity is based on unbreakable codes, so a successful attack would render it essentially worthless.

Asymmetric requires both the information and a Public Key to encrypt it – which as its name suggests can be shared – as well as a Private Key to then decrypt it. Quantum error correction is the process of compensating for the decoherence—quick disappearance due to environmental noise— of quantum states. Scientists in the 1990s thought it would be a simple challenge to overcome since the laws of physics allow it, but it has proven to be a tall order in practice. And the calculation does not take into account the difficulty readjustment, happening every 2016 blocks. So if the quantum computer mined 2016 blocks in a zip, it may be too good for its own computation.

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Yuri Manin and Richard Feynman were one of the first famous researchers who proposed this area of research in 1980s. Recent results in quantum computations and quantum technology achievements brought theoretical results to the practice. The appearance of so-called IBM-Q device created a new quantum computer science community and gave it a tool to verify the known theoretical ideas and algorithms. Cryptocurrency gets its name from “cryptography,” which quantum computers could crack, threatening not just crypto but the entire internet.

You need to design structures that these computers can’t take advantage of,” Groth says. In the case of blockchain systems, the cryptography protecting their tamper-proof ledgers may be at risk. Researchers at the University of Sussex estimated in February that a quantum computer with 1.9 billion qubits could essentially crack the encryption safeguarding Bitcoin within a mere 10 minutes. These powerful computers use quantum physics to solve complex problems that are beyond the reach of traditional devices by using qubits—an evolution of the classic binary bit.

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