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April 25, 2022

Will quantum computing break crypto?

Welcome to the cryptohunt jam where we spend one minute a day to explain crypto. In plain english.

Today, we’ll take a deeper look at an existential threat to blockchains called quantum computing.

Quantum computing is an experimental, fundamentally different way of building the brains of computers. These machines promise to solve complicated math problems in fractions of seconds, when even currently available supercomputers would take decades.

Quantum computers also happen to be really good at solving the kind of puzzles that cryptography is based on. And that’s a real problem for blockchains and many other applications.

Remember that losing the private keys to your crypto wallet will result in you never having a chance to reuse that wallet? The reason is that it would take hundreds of thousands of years for a traditional supercomputer to try all possible combinations. Quantum computers promise to do that in an instant, meaning nobody’s wallets would be safe anymore.

Should we be worried? Not yet at least. While very basic quantum computers have been proven to work in well-funded labs, it’ll take years until they have the scale they need to crack your wallet. And in the meantime, everyone is racing to develop quantum computing safe crypto methods, and blockchains like Ethereum already have their use on the long term roadmap.

Also: Realize that these machines would cause far more damage than just to blockchains. Your browser connection wouldn’t be safe anymore, and neither would be your bank login, among basically every other form of encrypted communication. So rest assured that smart people will work very hard to find ways around this problem while we still can.

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