Protecting digital assets from the threat of supercomputers: Q&A with quantum computing and blockchain security experts

Protecting digital assets from the threat of supercomputers: Q&A with quantum computing and blockchain security experts


Quantum computing – a technological development once thought to be decades away – is now right on our doorstep. While quantum computers can greatly benefit both scientific progress and industrial application, they also represent a serious threat to the security of our digital infrastructure – especially for blockchain-based technologies, such as cryptocurrencies. The destabilization of an increasingly crucial part of our global financial system could have major (and potentially devastating) effects.

To shed light on this complex and evolving landscape, Dr. Pierre-Luc Dallaire-Demers (“PL”), Founder/CEO and William Doyle (“Will”), core developer at the Pauli Group, spoke about their work at the forefront of quantum resistant blockchain technologies.

What are the biggest problems for crypto with the growth of quantum computing?


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PL: The inherent security weakness of public keys is the biggest problem. Everyone has been led to believe that they are almost impossible to break, but the reality is that a quantum computer running with around 1 million qubits – which we will see in the next 5-10 years – will crack keys in a few hours. As an example, the first 1 million BTC mined in the Satoshi era explicitly show their public keys in the block explorer, thus being hacked would have catastrophic consequences for the economics of the blockchain and a pervasive collapse of trust for the entire web3 industry since , as most blockchains use the same signature method.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been working to standardize cryptographic signature methods that can withstand quantum computers – but we need to act ASAP to implement it on a mass scale.

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How long until quantum computing is a serious threat or is it too late to act?

Want: I think quantum computing is a serious threat now. This is because it is unclear exactly when quantum computers will be able to break secp256k1 – and other modern cryptographic primitives, which is when it will all unravel.

PL: The algorithm for breaking elliptic curve cryptography – which crypto uses – was actually present as far back as 2003, but nothing out there was powerful enough to process it – so when Bitcoin came around, everyone felt it was perfectly safe. It is not. We expect to see machines with millions of qubits by the end of the decade, which will be able to perform this task with ease. At that point, non-quantum-secure blockchains will be totally at risk. As quantum computers grow in the 2030s, the rate of key breaches will skyrocket in parallel, rendering legacy blockchains completely obsolete by the 2040s. Fortunately, we still have a window to upgrade our infrastructure to withstand quantum computers, but it is a challenging task that requires immediate action.

Why aren’t major networks like Ethereum doing more to protect their networks?

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PL: Large networks are definitely aware of the implications of quantum computing for the security of their blockchains, but they are not making sustained efforts to upgrade to quantum-resistant cryptography. No major network has a multi-year migration plan either. This certainly needs to change if they care about the long-term viability of the existing networks.

The main problem is that we expected computers of this power to be over a hundred years away, but they have arrived far faster than expected – and everyone is running around trying to figure out what to do, or ignoring the problem entirely. But if we all get organized, we can prepare.

What can crypto investors do now to protect themselves?

PL: The best short-term strategy is for users to secure their crypto investment with a post-quantum-proof digital asset like the Quantum Resistant Ledger and move their existing blockchain assets to a quantum-resistant wallet. Pauli Group uses our own Anchor Wallet, which has the strongest quantum-resistant cryptography available to permanently secure assets against potential vulnerabilities posed by quantum computers.

Describe the professional journeys that brought you both here.

PL: My journey with quantum computing began in 2006 when I earned a Ph.D. in the field and a post-doc at Harvard, then worked as a quantum computer scientist at Xanadu. My interest in cryptocurrencies started in 2013, and as I watched quantum computers scale at a rapid rate, I recognized an impending and problematic intersection between these two fields. This led to me founding the Pauli Group in the summer of 2021.

Want: I have been in the blockchain space for years focusing on blockchain security. During my time in the industry, I have witnessed a rapid rise in technology that threatens the highly decentralized financial freedom that cryptocurrency was created for.

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What problem was the Pauli Group created to solve?

PL: The Pauli Group was born from an understanding that large-scale quantum computers are no longer a distant possibility, but a rapidly approaching reality. The whiplash progress in this field means that these machines could be a reality by the end of this decade, and this poses a significant threat to the security of blockchains. Our goal is to monitor the progress of quantum computers and their ability to break blockchain cryptography and to develop solutions that protect users and their assets in the long run.

Want: The Pauli Group was created to innovate in the overlapping space between quantum computing and blockchain technology. We firmly believe that the security, integrity and trust of blockchains must remain uncompromised even in the post-quantum era.

Learn more about the Pauli Group here:

Featured image by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash.

This post contains sponsored advertising content. This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended as investment advice.

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